a painting of two people sitting on a couch

Your Traveling Sleep Tools

Bob Ewing
April 14, 2023
a painting of two people sitting on a couch

Sleep is hard, especially when we travel. Deprivation has a high cost. Here are five tools – easy to pack and use – that may help save you during your next adventure.

Talking Big Ideas.

“Sleep is the best meditation.”
~ Dalai Lama

Peter Attia’s much-anticipated longevity book, Outlive, has finally arrived. He shares a story about being so sleep-deprived during medical residency that he accidentally passed out for six hours “in the middle of Baltimore’s Pattison Park . . . an open air heroin market and thriving hub for prostitution.”  

Getting enough sleep can be hard. I’m reading Attia now on a cross-country flight to officiate a wedding, an honor that begins a month of travel: North Carolina, Italy, and Washington DC, with many stops between. (As you’re reading this, I’m relaxing unplugged in Tuscany with my wife and mom.)

This past year I’ve put real effort into improving my sleep. But when I travel it often falls apart. I’m not alone in this. Travel can be brutal on our sleep, which affects us in countless ways. As Stanford neuroscientist Matt Walker creatively explains in his book Why We Sleep

He’s talking about sleep, of course, and makes it sound like an unbelievable miracle drug. To get sufficient quantities of this drug, Walker offers the NIH’s Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. (Also worthwhile is the Toolkit for Sleep by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, and Harvard University’s Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep.)

I’ve been building out my own sleep protocols, and there are five specific tools I love to recommend. I use them every night and bring them with me during travels. They’re easy to pack, and they make a real difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. 

#1. Cold Head Massage Gelcap

Maryrose and I first tried one of these on a cross-country road trip. It transformed our ability to sleep while riding shotgun. Originally designed to ease migraines and headaches, I liken it to a security blanket for dogs during thunderstorms – as soon as you put it on you feel content. 

I keep mine in the freezer during the day and love drifting off to sleep with a cool, calming head massage.  

#2. Climbing Tape

We’re supposed to breathe through our noses. Many of us switch to mouth breathing at night, which harms our sleep quality. A simple piece of tape often corrects this. (See James Nester’s fantastic book Breath.) You can use any tape you like as long as you can easily remove it. I’ve tried a bunch and prefer basic climbing tape. 

Ever since Breath came out I’ve taped my mouth shut at night and occasionally while I drive during long road trips. Given how much I talk, Maryrose never complains about it.  

#3. Plackers 

Tension builds in our jaws while we sleep. For some of us it gets to the point of overnight teeth grinding and morning headaches. Unlike mouthguards that are awkward and can hurt your teeth, Plackers easily fit in a comfortable way and absorb any tension you create during sleep. 

Even if you don’t think you grind, I encourage you to try Plackers for a month and see what you think. 

#4. Silicone Wax Earplugs

I’ve tried lots of earplugs. Silicone wax are hands down the best and most comfortable for sleeping, and they work perfectly with your head massage gelcap. (For reading and writing I imported Bollsen plugs from Germany and swear by them.) 

If you’ve only tried the cheap foam plugs that scratch up your ear canals overnight, it’s time to step up your game. I promise you’ll love the upgrade. 

#5. Morning Sunlight

A Beautiful Sunrise in Nature by DeepAI, 2023.

Thankfully you don’t have to fit this one in your carry-on bag, it will be there when you arrive. As Andrew Huberman loves to say: If you want to sleep well, view morning sunlight!  

Morning sunlight is essential for good sleep – especially during travel, as it quickly syncs you up with whatever time zone you’re in, balances your hormones, elevates your mood, and tells your body when it’s time to sleep later that night. 


Give these tools a shot and let me know how it goes. And any advice you have on how to sleep better, especially during travels, I’m all ears! 

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