Do You Sleep Well When You're Away Overnight?

Do Sleep Well When You’re Away From Home Overnight?

We will all have had occasion to stay away from home, whether it be through work, a holiday, an overnighter at a friend’s house, in hospital. But being in that situation may have meant that getting a good night’s sleep was problematic. In fact, nearly half the people in a recent survey responded that they disliked staying overnight in places that are not home.

Often the opportunity to stay away from home is viewed as exciting, an opportunity to do something different, have a change of scenery, get out of our comfort zone and extend our  horizons a little. And, in fact adults on average spend 11 nights away from home as a guest of three different hosts each year.

Whilst it’s often delightful to catch up with friends and be looked after by someone else, the issue of sleep can potentially cast a shadow over the whole experience.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sharing a bedroom may seem to be no problem in principle. Initially, staying away overnight and sharing with a friend may seem to be a fun idea. We have the opportunity to catch up, chat in a relaxed environment, get up together the next day.  Even with people we only know reasonably well, like co-workers, sharing a room may make sense. We can be practical, matter of fact about it, especially if it’s just for one night.

But what happens if the other person snores, or worse still, we do! Or if they’re a restless sleeper, want to talk or read late into the night. What might they think about our early morning routine or appearance or what if they get up long before or after we do? There can be many items on that stressful, ‘what if’ list.

Staying as a guest in someone’s spare room can be another worrisome situation. If the bed is uncomfortable or the room’s the wrong temperature and we scarcely sleep it can be awkward the following morning. A 2022 survey of 2000 people for sleep tech company Simba, found that 73% of those polled confessed to having a poor night’s sleep in an uncomfortable guest bed. Though, 54% lied and told their hosts that they’d slept well.     

However, we can hardly turn up at a friend’s house with our own pillows or duvet! Maybe we can utilise instead our personal relaxation techniques, like a little yoga routine, meditation, self-hypnosis or a sleep app. Any of these can serve us well and help us settle down for the night.

Having something familiar with us can be a comfort at bedtime, which may explain why 10% of adults still sleep with their teddy bears. Being away from home, perhaps when we were first away at university, might have seen us taking our old teddy with us. It connected us to the reassuring comfort of our childhood bedroom, where we were able to relax and sleep, allowing us to settle for the night. Teddy could then have become a special part of each night time ritual, staying with us throughout the ensuing stages of our lives.         

It’s not just about sleeping overnight, though, is it?  There’s the issue of following the correct protocol for getting up in the morning. What happens if we wake up too early? Is it okay to use the bathroom, take a shower, go and make a coffee, help ourselves to breakfast? If these things haven’t been clarified in advance it can be awkward if we feel stuck in our bedroom, hardly daring to emerge for fear of disturbing the rest of the household or appearing to be an ungracious guest. 

If there’s an ensuite bathroom it can make life a little easier, in that we can get up, washed and dressed without inconveniencing anyone else too much. But then there’s the issue of leaving. Is it okay to leave a note of thanks and go on our way? Many people in the survey had concerns at disturbing their hosts’ plans, not wanting to disrupt them unduly. There’s the dilemma of deciding if it’s acceptable to give thanks and leave or should we loiter for a time? Often an ‘important meeting’ or an ‘I’d better get back’ may suffice as a polite way to part company.

Waking up feeling tired, irritable or unrested after an overnight stay can lead to a difficult start to the day. If you find this happening to you it’s a good idea to allow a little time to recharge your batteries, if at all possible. Maybe spend some time in the fresh air; a walk or a run could be a help. Schedule some breaks when you can, to hydrate, clear your head and gradually start to feel revitalised again.

All this certainly means that staying overnight is not the quick, easy solution that we may have been anticipating.  There are definitely additional side issues to consider, which sometimes entail solving one problem but then having to deal with another!  

Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist