Sleep anxiety when traveling – a real problem

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sleep anxiety
When Jessica and I traveled to the Philippines, I could hardly sleep in the condominium unit that we rented through Airbnb. I could barely catch some shuteye at the hamlet/village that my mother grew up in. When we visited my friend in San Francisco, I was pacing in the middle of the night worried that I might not be able to sleep. Now, I’m in Las Vegas staying at my cousin’s house and I still could not sleep. The worst part: I haven’t slept in more than 30 hours. A few times before, I have gone for more than 40 hours without sleep. Sure, I’ve taken those 10, 15, and 20 minute naps; but my body is just so tired at the moment.

Whenever Jessica and I travel to other places, my number one concern is accomodation. I know it’s weird and many people might think I’m being very high maintenance but I’ve always been uncomfortable to sleep in new places. Filipinos call this phenomenon, “namamahay.” In English, it refers to one’s inability to sleep or get comfortable because it is not one’s place. Usually, anxiety kicks in and this results in sleeplessness and sleep anxiety. I have this problem.

Sleep anxiety – it is the fear and worry generated by your own insomnia that, in turn, causes you to stay awake even more. It is responsible for the vicious endless cycle of sleeplessness that makes life so miserable for so many.Marcia (

This anxiety or sleep anxiety happen usually in the first night or two of being in a new place. It seems as though my body is not yet comfortable with the hotel, the room, or wherever we may be at the time. Not to mention I already have some form of insomnia that I’m currently trying to overcome.

It has become a real problem for me. Growing up, I’ve always been very particular about where and how I sleep. I am one of those people that are not able to sleep on command. The environment, the weather, the ambience, the firmness of the bed, the lighting, and all these other factors—always affect me and my sleep. It is one of my downfalls as a traveler; and I know that this is very bad.

The sleep anxiety…

It’s not just anxiety, but sleep anxiety. It is when the anxiety revolves around sleeplessness.

It’s not so much the tossing and turning at night. I’ve never really had that problem before. Once I’m asleep, I’m asleep! (I slept through mild earthquakes a few times) When I’m in a new place–regardless of adapting to time zones–my anxiety kicks in. I would think about about how there is too much saliva on my throat; or the air is too dry; or there is no white noise from an electric fan; or how early I have to wake up the following morning. The list goes on.

This is a real problem for me and I’m kind of embarassed to share it but what the heck, huh? I’m sure that at least one more person in the world feels anxious about sleep (and other things) when traveling.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited to travel to these new and interesting places. But for some reason, my body is probably looking for “home.” May it be the comfort of my own bed; that particular scent of the room; the feel of my pillows; seeing the decor in my room before closing my eyes.

This is very troublesome! I recognize that this is a huge problem especially for a self-proclaimed traveler.

Alone with my thoughts

When everyone has gone to bed, I feel alone with my thoughts. Often, I feel stressed about random and unidentifiable things. Jessica would ask me, “what is bothering you?” My reply is always, “I don’t know.” My heart would palpitate, jumping in and out of its place. My feet would feel tingly. My fears more amplified.

It makes me feel better to talk to people about how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. However, it is not fair for others to stay up with me ’til the morning light just so I could feel better. Then I would see myself in a room, just alone with my thoughts. My dear Jessica has been my rock when feelings of anxiety, nervousness, fear, and stress envelop me.

This is a vicious cycle and it happens more often than I would like. A pattern I recognize is most of my anxiety or stress is related to my concern about sleep. It is what they call sleep anxiety.

What have I done to (kind of) manage this problem?
  • Worry journal
  • my mantra
  • Chamomile tea, aromatherapy candles, music
  • a nice warm/hot shower
  • talking to people online or those who are awake
  • writing or reading boring articles
  • doing mundane things until my body says, “Nope. You gotta go to bed, kind sir.”
  • accepting that I can’t sleep and should not try my hardest to do so

As I read Marcia’s website about sleep anxiety, one of the things that stood out to me the most was keeping a sleep and worry journal. I recognize that I HAVE insomnia or some sort of sleep disorder paired with my usual anxieties and worries. I haven’t been able to follow through the cognitive therapy program that Marcia from advocates for. But I try.

I do have a worry journal that I would write my worries during the day so that I do not have to worry about them at night. Marcia suggests that we should make appointments for ourselves only reserved for worry time. So, I usually try to make my 4:00pm appointment where I would sit in a quiet place and write all my worries and fears for 15-20 minutes.

I also have my mantra of: “I am in control; my fears and worries are exaggerated. Some of them are true, some are not. What’s the worst that could happen? I am dealing with my anxieties and I understand that I wouldn’t be able to solve them instantly. I am doing my very best to deal with my problems. I am in control.” And then, whenever I feel anxious, I would repeat this phrase (or a variation of it) a few times.

The point of the worry journal is to make sure that we have time to worry during the day. We bring those worries to our daily appointments during the day so that we may not worry about them at night. Allowing us to sleep with little to no worries temporarily.

Most of my worries come from sleep anxiety. Most of them revolve around how much sleep I’m going to get or if I’m going to be able to sleep at all.

So besides the journal and the mantra, I try to manage it with things I listed above. I would drink a relaxing tea; clean the room; organize some digital files; read a few boring articles; and etc.

When traveling, my sleep anxiety gets a little worse

When I’m in new places, my sleep becomes a number one worry of mine. Before I even set foot in a foreign room, I would look for the things that might interfere with my sleep. I must have:

  • 3 pillows
  • a fairly humid room
  • easy access to the bathroom
  • firm bed
  • a fan sound

I know these are so high-maintenance stuff but I liken it to a disease. I really envy those who can sleep at any setting and I wish I could learn to do so. For now, I’m trying my very best to battle my anxieties.

If you are suffering from sleep anxiety, please visit as it might help you as it helps me. I haven’t conquered my sleep anxiety yet but I’m working my best to manage it. I heard that it’s also good to talk to loved ones, friends, and a professional about these problems. I’m going to give that a try. I started by sharing it on Nearby Wanderer.

Have you ever had a sleep problem before? Could you sleep comfortably when you’re in new and foreign places? What are your sleeping techniques? Please leave a comment below. It might help someone like me!


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