Call it the “first night effect.” “In a new environment (like a hotel room halfway across the world), we have a hard time falling asleep,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., an assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Blame your brain. “We’re hyper-alert and cognitively aroused.” The trick to finding shuteye: convincing your body that you’re somewhere familiar.
Bringing a small blanket or a photo of family members—something that reminds you of home—can help, he notes. So can playing favorites when it comes to hotels. Staying at the same chain every time you travel doesn't just mean loyalty points, it also means your body familiarizes itself with the decor, lighting, and room style—making it feel more like home. When your body feels more familiar with its surroundings, you’re less likely to suffer from the first night effect and get better sleep, says Dasgupta.