A meme recently made the rounds riffing on the ease with which friends will invite you to spend the night at their home to avoid a long drive. "Oh, just spend the night," it went. "We have plenty of room!"
The gist of the joke is that, while it's easy to offer a place to sleep for the night, many people have such difficulty sleeping that the idea of "just spending the night" in a place that isn't their own bed is preposterous to them. "As if I don't need a fan, three blankets, nine pillows and a glass of water to even think about falling asleep," seemed to summarize the response.
As is almost always the case with jokes, it was funny because it's true. Troubled sleepers know that even under the best of circumstances — when the fan, the blankets, the pillows, and the water are just right — falling and staying asleep is not always guaranteed. Taking those things out of the equation can send the troubled sleeper into a tailspin.
Which brings us to travel. Travel is notorious for messing with our sleep, and there is no shortage of advice for the weary traveler looking to get some Zzz’s. Most of these tips veer toward the behavioral: When to nap, how to use exercise strategically to aid sleep, and what to avoid (caffeine, night caps, and heavy fare before bed, mostly). But with the exception of suggesting the use of a light-blocking eye mask or earplugs to drown out unfamiliar noises, there is a dearth of functional solutions to the problem of travel-related sleep disruption.
So, we must invent some!
A pillow might spring to mind. Now, many people travel with their own pillow; doing so may not be a standard practice, but it's certainly common enough that the suggestion won't pack the kind of "Wow I never thought of that!" punch we're looking for. But certainly, laying your head on the pillow you're used to sleeping on will help to mitigate some of the ill effects travel wreaks on our sleep.
To level up, in addition to traveling with your own pillow, what if you also packed a sleeping fan? "A sleeping fan?" Yes, a sleeping fan! The whir of a good travel fan will provide exactly the right amount of white noise to lull you into sleep. You could spring for a travel-sized noise machine that has a fan setting. Or if you go for the fan itself, the light breeze it provides can keep you cool while you slumber. Your sleeping fan!
Blessedly, I am not the first to have this idea, and a fan-enabled white noise machines and sleeping fans designed specifically for travel already exist in this world. The fan I favor has four settings for both breeze and white noise; it also folds flat and comes with a protective case in which to pack it. Other travel fans are available at a range of price points, with assorted features, depending on your travel style, aesthetic style, and air-circulation preferences.
When attempting to sleep in a noisy setting, a fan can be much more pleasant than balling up tissues to stick in your ears, or hoping those travel ear plugs didn’t fall victim to your leaky shampoo bottle. Or if you sleep cold, opt for just the noise, without the actual fan.
Rather than letting travel-related sleeplessness ruin your next getaway, let's normalize traveling with a noise solution to ease our slumber when away from home sweet home.