This Is Why You Can’t Sleep Properly When You’re Away From Home

audrey hepburn, sleep, yawn, roman holiday

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Updated on

Picture the scene. You've just arrived at the most perfect hotel after an early flight, baggage transfer stress and taxi woes. You're ready to finally switch off and sleep like a baby.

Except, well, you just can't. Because even if you're sprawled out on a king sized bed, fitted out with Egyptian cotton sheets and the world's comfiest matress, you spend the entire night tossing and turning, drifting in and out of fitful sleep, and end up waking up feeling much worse than you would if you'd just stayed at home.

It's a scenario that seems to play out whenever you spend the night away from the comfort of your own bed, whether you've crashed on a friend's sofa, headed back to your family home or booked a swanky hotel room.

Known as the 'first night effect,' our inability to sleep in new surroundings has long been recognised by sleep researchers, but the science behind it has remained unclear - until now.

In an effort to explain this phenomena, researchers from Brown University in the US ran tests on 11 people who were spending the night away from home. They discovered that the brain signals associated with deep sleep were only picked up on the right side of the participants' brains - meaning that the left half of the brain essentially stayed awake throughout the night. So, that explains why a night in a B and B can leave you feeling totally wiped out.

Yuka Sasaki, one of the study's authors, explained that it may be a way that the brain can 'keep watch' in unfamiliar surroundings.

This asymmetry only happened on the first night of the study, meaning that once you've got through the rocky 'first night,' you should be able to sleep soundly.

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