26 February 2007

Sleepless in Sandton

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that you need a good night’s sleep and cursing while the hours tick by. Never fear. Here’s some good advice.


You woke at 4.30am, drove to the airport, endured the mayhem at the check-in counter caused by a computer crash, survived airline food, Death By PowerPoint and question time. Now you’re in your Sandton hotel room, exhausted and wide awake. What’s to be done?

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that you need a good night’s sleep and cursing while the hours tick by. For blokes who travel a lot, the first night in a new hotel room is guaranteed misery, so a road show that covers five towns in five days means you’ll have a thousand-yard stare and drool marks on your tie by Friday. Never fear. Here’s some good advice.

  • Stay off the booze. A glass of wine with dinner is acceptable, but when the guys adjourn to the pub for shooters, it’s time to bow out. Don’t even feel the need to make excuses – just go. Apart from messing up your liver, booze interferes with your REM sleep cycle, which means that you might pass out in your room, but you’ll wake up a couple of hours later and suffer troubled sleep throughout the rest of the already abbreviated night.
  • Ask for a quiet room. Be honest with the folk at reception. Tell them you need your rest and get some advice on the quietest area of their hostelry. Our bet would be at the end of the corridor where there’s the least activity in the passage. Proximity to lift shafts and air-conditioning means trouble.
  • Soak up the ambience. Some hotels in Paris have baths the size of a cooler-box that many South Africans take to the cricket. But if the facilities allow it, take a long soak in a warm bath or a shower.
  • Sip at something. Most hotel rooms have kettles in them, so take along some bags of chamomile tea, or order some. Rooibos tea can be calming too, but don’t expect to get it at the Hyatt in Seattle or Colombo. Some people find that night-time beverages like Milo and Horlicks work well. Others find that the calories they contain boost their blood sugar, making them perky when they need sleep. Avoid caffeine anytime after lunch.
  • Have breakfast. Okay, not the eggs, toast and coffee variety, but some oatmeal or cereal can help you relax. So can pasta, which contains tryptophan, an amino acid which your body converts to serotonin, which your body needs to trigger sleep.
  • Have a black-out. Many cities are never dark, with light seeping in through chinks in curtains and under doors. Put out the light and survey your room for light sources: Even LEDs on TVs and airconditioning units can be a source of wakefulness. Block them off with clothing, magazines, furniture. Be ruthless. It’s your sanity, after all.
  • Tune out. Try setting the radio in your room between FM stations, then turn it down until it’s barely audible. Some people find that it blocks out some of the noise they find irritating.
  • Go chemical. Some folk swear by pharmaceuticals. Some of them find that sleeping pills only help for a while, or that they feel dopey the morning after taking them. Try Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic treatment for shock and sleep. There’s also dolomite, which helps muscles relax, a Seda Sleep, which is good for stress and anxiety.
  • William Smook


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