Scientists Explain Why You Have So Much Trouble Sleeping in a Hotel Room

Apr 30, 2017

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We’ve all been there: you sink into the sumptuous hotel bed that looked so tempting after hours of tiring travel, only to find that you just can’t fall asleep, no matter how many sheep you count.

“Sleep researchers and clinicians have long known about the ‘first night effect,'” Dr. Melisa Moore, a sleep expert from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told Condé Nast Traveler. “The study suggests that one of our brain hemispheres sleeps less deeply the first night in a new environment. This hemispheric difference might cause us to have difficulty falling asleep.”

Of course, the phenomenon isn’t just specific to hotel rooms; it can happen when you spend the night at a friend’s house, in a new home of your own or in any environment that’s different than “normal.” Even if you do fall asleep with relative ease, you likely won’t sleep soundly. According to Moore, the average person wakes up between four and six times per night even while at home, but because those surroundings are familiar to us, we’re usually able to fall back to sleep fairly quickly. When we’re out of our element, that’s not so easy.

The “first night effect” isn’t a new discovery either; according to The Atlantic, scientists have known about it for more than 50 years. And it affects most people, Yuka Sasaki, an associate professor at Brown University whose studies focus on sleep, said in the article. One way she tries to curb the first night effect while traveling? Find a favorite hotel and become a regular guest. “I’m flying to England tomorrow and staying at a Marriott,” she told The Atlantic. “It’s not a completely novel environment, so maybe my brain will be a little more at ease.”

H/T: Condé Nast Traveler

Featured image courtesy of Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images.

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