How do you actually sleep when you are travelling?

Tips and insights on how to stay balanced by keeping your sleep efficiency and maintaining physical activity during your travels!!


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Truth be told…We all face the challenge of a good night’s sleep when we are away from home. Everyone who travels knows that the combination of transporting yourself to another location and having many things on your agenda can be hard, even exhausting and have an effect on your wellbeing. Further, many people find themselves tossing and turning in hotel beds when away from the comforts of home, but how much is our sleep actually affected?! And what can you do to avoid spending days on or after your travel feeling like a zombie?!

We decided to find out! Welcome to our project……

Quantifying data is nothing new to us. We have both a private and a professional interest in wearable technologies and believe that adding insight  to our lifestyle through technologies and data helps us to confirm if we are making the right choices.

9 days of travelling – 6 different beds! –way too little physical activity!

A few weeks back we had a fantastic and very intensive trip back to Denmark. It was our first visit back since our relocation to Switzerland in late December 2015 hence why we had a fully booked calendar and many hugs to deliver.

Time for  hugs, family, walks by the sea and a lot of hours spend in the car…..

Our travel:

  • Duration: 9 days
  • Type of transportation: Car (We drove 2700km in total)
  • Type of accommodation: 3 different hotels and 2 different private homes
  • Type of beds: Everything from very good to very poor mattresses

From Denmark to Switzerland:

We had booked a hotel in Göttingen, Germany, situated approximately half way between Switzerland and Denmark. The hotel was chosen because of its easy access from the highway and because it had a nice gym enabling us to exercise before getting back on the road again. We arrived at the hotel at 00:30 PM (had a minor technical problem with our GPS, but that is a separate story:-)) and drove from the hotel next morning at 10 AM. That left us with a disturbed bedtime already from day 1.

From Denmark to Switzerland:

On the way back to Switzerland we took a “car train” from Hamburg to Lörrach (South Germany) as we assumed that this would give everyone of us a full nights sleep and the benefit of having someone else driving us.


In Denmark we stayed with family (2 different places) and in two different hotels. One of the nights was a “Couples Get Away” (the kids stayed an extra night with their Grandparents) at the charming Niels Bugges Kro og Hotel which is placed in some of the most beautiful nature in Denmark with perfect conditions for mountainbiking and running. A fantastic place that we hope to visit again! 


How do we measure our sleep?

Before leaving, everyone except our daughter (age 3), were equipped with a device that measures physical activity and sleep 24 h/day. The tool is clinically validated (7 years<) and used in research projects all over the World. This is of course not research, but never the less, we find it important to work with validity as a factor. That said, there are many other technologies available, even apps, that enables you to message and get an understanding of your sleep pattern + amount of physical activity. In a later blog post we will come back to this!

We collected a lot of data and our objective was to find out:

  1. How sleep quality was effected
  2. How physical activity was effected

Prior to the travel we made a benchmark data collection a home.

So….What did we learn?! 

Basically, that if you are to optimistic and try to fit in to much, the result of your travel is Poor Sleep Quality and too little physical activity!


  • Our Sleep Efficiency (SE) dropped with up to 15% compared to a normal week at home
  • Our Sleep Duration dropped with up to 2 h 30 min (pr. night) compared to a normal week at home
  • Taking the car-train did not at all give any of us the benefits that we had hoped for. This night was the worst for all of us! The train had a lot of stops hence why we had many, many periods without sleep.

Research suggest that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity.

In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy and poor focus at game time! The need for sleep vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health, but the results below show, that all of us were affected during this travel!

Next time we go back, we will minimize the amount of “location shifts”. Prior to leaving, we knew that these shifts would affect us, but not how much…. We wanted to see as many people as possible, but lesson learned. We were extremely tired the first two days after returning to Switzerland and this just tells us, that we were way to optimistic when we initially planned our travel.

Data of our sleep

Physical Activity 

  • Steps/day dropped for all of us!! The biggest “step looser” had an avg. decrease of 3659 steps/day.
  • Our children had a higher intensity in their movement, which is interesting and probably a result of more “free play time” than when they, in a normal week, are in school.
  • Besides a reduces amount of steps/day, adults have a much harder time keeping up the intensity of their activity.

Clearly it is easier for children than adults to maintain their normal physical activity level when you are travelling like we did…. Maybe it would be a good idea if we as adults played a bit more:-). We knew that if would be difficult to fit training in to our crazy travel plan! But we were honestly not aware, that it would be such a challenge. Had it not been for the “Couple Get away” where we had time to both run and bike, our physical activity data would have been scandalous.

Being inactive can disturb sleep and affect your mood – we know that this is a fact in our family. Next time we go back to Denmark we will make sure to leave much more spaces open for physical activity – LESSON LEARNED!

Data of our Physical ActivityLuckily we did not cross any timezones, but the effect of that would in it self be interesting to investigate….Next project in the making:-)

You can learn more about our thoughts about sleep here. Further you can find valuable information  here – And what about you? Maybe it would be a good idea to test yourself – How well do you sleep when you are travelling?!

Sleep Ballet London

 Source Do you know Yann Le Meur? If not got take a look at his incredible infographics – They are very educational. We are big fans! 

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