How Traveling Messes with My Sleep and Health and How to Fix it

When I travel, I feel like it’s time to explore the city to the fullest. This means eating, drinking and getting terrible sleep. Just like I allow myself to have cheat days or weekends, I allow myself to cheat when I travel. This works for me because I don’t travel all the time but if I did, the poor exercise routine, diet, and sleep would ruin any gains I had from working out regularly.

So starting today, I’m making it a point to travel healthier, even if I don’t travel on the regular. This post is just a way for me to document this.

As you can see from this chart based on my oura ring data, my sleep is horrible during my travels.

Things to be Aware of When You Travel

  • Timezone changes. This will affect how your normal sleep cycle. Potentially significantly. They say it takes a day for each time zone crossed to allow your body to adjust.1
  • Poor Diet. Brisket and beer for breakfast! – When you travel, you don’t have your normal healthy diet routine in place. It’s hard to cook healthy food when you don’t have a place to cook it and groceries from the local health food store. I personally feel like I can eat and drink anything I want while I travel. This is a bad habit and has to stop.
  • Poor Sleep. Quality sleep is hard to come by when you travel. Sometimes this is due to adrenaline from the excitement of being in a new place and sometimes its due to timezone changes. Staying up late at night for whatever reason, work, exploration or time zone changes is the norm.
  • Poor Exercise Routine. I tend to walk more when I travel but this doesn’t make up for the lack of training that tends to occur during travels. It’s also difficult to train at a high intensity when your body is out of wack from the change in timezone and the lack of sleep you’re experiencing when traveling.
It took me about 2-3 to recover from bad sleep, diet and feel “normal” again and this was with the help of melatonin. The harder you go, the longer it takes to get back to feeling normal and healthy.

How Often Do You Travel?

If you rarely travel, a trip filled with food, drink, and lack of sleep isn’t too different than you eating the occasional cheat meal or even cheat weekend.

If you do travel regularly, it’s important to have a plan when you travel and set some ground rules. This is something I will try next time I travel.

It All Comes Down to Discipline and Planning

Just like everything in life and business, if you have a plan and strategy you have a better chance at succeeding. I’ve implemented some of these solutions but not all and I haven’t been able to do it consistently. Here are some simples ways I currently maintain my health during periods of travel without

  • Diet – On extended trips, I’ll buy groceries and cook. On shorter trips I allow myself to try most things, while still limiting the processed carbs when I can. If I think I won’t get enough food regularly, I’ll pack “back up” food. This may include macadamia nuts, dark chocolate, and walnuts.
  • Sleep – Bring earplugs, eye masks, and melatonin on your trip. All I need is 1-2mg of melatonin to help me sleep earlier than I would otherwise. This is useful when there is a shift in timezones. The earplugs and eye masks are useful because it’s hard to gauge the volume and extra light in your room where you sleep.
  • Exercise – I tend to walk a lot more when I’m on trips, so I’m not too concerned about the calorie intake versus expenditure. Maintaining muscle and conditioning is still important to me so I will find a hotel gym on shorter trips and weekly gym memberships if I’m staying at a location for an extended period of time. Even without a gym, there are an infinite amount of calisthenic exercises you can do in your hotel room or outside when you are traveling.
  • Lack of Discipline – Personally, the main issue I had was the lack of sleep. This causes a reduction in discipline and decision making. Be aware that this is happening and ask yourself before you pick up that pecan pie for breakfast, “do I really want this and the negative consequences of this? Or, am I just making bad decisions because I currently lack sleep?”.

Moving Forward: Set Up Some Ground Rules

If you travel regularly, you know what your weak points are. It could be getting good sleep because you’re not used to the sleep environment you’re on. If this is the case you have to mentally prepare for this and make sure you have tools necessary for your success. This could be as simple as eye masks and earplugs.

For me, alcohol greatly affects my sleep. Knowing this, when I travel I will try to put my self-discipline hat on when offered free drinks and resist drinking a lot when I travel.

Here’s an example of some ground rules you can set for yourself when traveling.

  • Only 2 drinks per day max.
  • No staying out after 10 pm to give yourself more time to wind down before you sleep
  • Exercise every morning, even if it’s just doing pushups and air squats
  • Eating low carb meals. Practice OMAD (one meal a day) or other fasting techniques if necessary

Just Try To Be Good and Self-Disciplined

Like most things in life, there is no quick fix or pill. There’s only self-discipline and some small strategies you can implement.

After you factor in self-discipline as your main means of success, most of being healthy when traveling comes down to taking your good habits from your everyday life and converting so it works when you’re traveling. Depending on where you travel to, this may be difficult. You’ll need to find a replacement for your home gym, diet, and home sleep routine.

This may take you some time to find something that works but once you do, you should be able to live a healthy lifestyle even when you travel.

Now lets if you can come back from a trip and actually feel physically healthier than when you left.

Reader Recommendations

Just curious what everybody else’s tips, hacks or tricks are when traveling while maintaining their health. Comment below!


Sign up for ideas to extend your healthspan

"Healthspan is the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging."

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.