THE BLOG
04/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Sleeping Outside of Seattle: Road Sleep

After I wrote about how I finally ended my 34-year insomnia as part of the Huffington Post Sleep Challenge, I started hearing from people from all over who were touched by my tale of finding happiness and with it, finding sleep. But all is not nirvana in sleep land for me. There still is the issue of Road Sleep. For an insomniac, sleeping at home is hard to come by, but sleeping when you are traveling is almost impossible. During my decades of sleeplessness, I employed a zillion tricks--I tried Melatonin, and then progressed to Excedrin PM, then Ambien. I would beg hotels for a quiet room. I would bring my favorite pajamas and a really boring book. Sleeping on a plane, even in business or first class was really elusive. I'd get a few minutes at best, maybe an hour of sleep at most. Then I would land in some foreign city and try my best to look like I was refreshed and ready to go to work. Most of us know this drill--the ear plugs, the eye shades, the neck pillows the various things we concoct to try to get a couple winks on a flight. I have only met one person who really can sleep on planes. Jorge settles into his seat on the plane, slaps on his eyeshades and is out for the entire flight--even in the middle of the day!

I envy Jorge, even now that I have sent insomnia packing for good. We all envy Jorge. I can't sleep on the road like Jorge, but I can sleep. It is never quite a good as home. I miss my bed, my routine, my pillow, my darling man holding me. So, I try to take what I can of that on the road. I keep the same routine even if the time zone is upside down. I often take my soft squishy down pillow with me. If I could I would take that dear man that I love with me everywhere.

This happens to be a month of constant travel. I am writing this on a Friday night flight home. I was gone all week, and half the week before. I will get home tonight, and then take off tomorrow morning, returning in four days in time to head out the very next afternoon to London for a week.

For my London flight, I will eat the dinner, but skip the movie and get right down to the business of sleeping. I bring my beloved pillow and a soft cashmere blanket. I tuck into a good (but not too good) book. When I land, I have to go straight to meetings. So, I will travel in comfortable work clothes. A quick stop in the loo to freshen up and I'm off. I plan to drop my bag at the hotel, but not check in. This gives me a lighter load, so I can walk to my meetings. Fresh air and a good walk are critical--and a triple espresso! I will go completely native onto the London schedule. A week later, when I return to Seattle, I will struggle, but will nonetheless revert to Seattle time.

Sounds great doesn't it? It works mostly. Yes, I wake up in the middle of the night or have trouble going to sleep when my body thinks it is too early. And the hotel room is invariably too hot, the bed uncomfortable and then there is that absence of darling man. Lately, my mind has been zipping around like the red Mini Cooper I drive. Revved up with thoughts of work I need to get to, travel prep, the call I forgot to make, and the emails I need to respond to. Normally, I carefully set all that stuff aside before I go to bed--imagining that I am putting it on a book shelf to be picked up in the morning. Yet, when I travel, those loose ends seem to slip off the shelf, wander around the unfamiliar room and crawl into my bed and into my mind. Two nights ago this happened, there I was awake at 4:30 am thinking, thinking, thinking. So, I got up and did the work. Then I re-racked for an hour of sleep. It wasn't ideal, but the work got done, I got more sleep than if I had tossed and turned over it, and it meant that I could sleep in today, knowing that the work I had planned for this morning was done.

As I said in my previous blog, I had to find my own centeredness--my own true North--in order to excommunicate chronic insomnia from my life. Yet, that was not enough to deal with the sleeplessness that still haunts my traveling self. For that, I must be craftier, deploying these various management techniques and the almighty beloved pillow. I wish all who read this that you sleep well tonight wherever you may rest your head.