The ‘First Night Effect’ And How To Overcome It?

Ahhhh, vacations. We love them! Time to relax, unwind, take your mind off work, and get some well-earned rest. Or so we hope…

In reality, many of us struggle to sleep when we stay somewhere new, even if the hotel bed is marshmallowy-soft! This common sleep struggle is called the ‘First Night Effect’ and has been recognized by sleep scientists as a very real phenomenon, explored for over 50 years. 

What Is The ‘First Night Effect’

FNE has been a part of our human instincts since time began, but only in the last half-century have we truly come to understand what it is, and why it happens. FNE occurs when we sleep in an unfamiliar setting for the first time, and results in difficulty falling asleep, and broken, unsatisfying rest once we do.

The First Night Effect happens because of an unequal balance of sleep between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. When FNE occurs, the left side of our brain is significantly more awake than the right, making it harder for us to drop off.

The left side of the brain stays more alert in new surroundings because of heightened anxiety to new noises, threats and other sensitivities like light and heat. Similar to how birds sleep with one eye open to keep alert to predators, our brain keeps one side semi-awake in order to respond to anything unusual. A kind of ‘safeguarding’ – the left side of our brain stays in fight or flight mode and is partially more vigilant than the right side.


How to Overcome FNE?

In order to reduce the First Night Effect, the best thing to do is make new environments feel more familiar. By tricking your brain into thinking it’s not somewhere new, you can counteract the intensity of which your left hemisphere stays alert. Bringing your own pillow from home when traveling is one easy trick, as well as sticking to your usual at-home night-time routine. If you are someone who travels a lot, you are less likely to suffer, though, as your body and brain are accustomed to regular new environments.

Sleep masks and ear plugs are also a great way to block out foreign sounds and lights, but the best way to ensure deeper, more restful sleep (even in unfamiliar places) is to use a natural sleep-aid like our Dream Lotion or Pure Rest Roller. Packed-full of naturally-soporific essential oils, our Sleep Range will help you drift into a more satisfying, longer sleep that will leave you refreshed and recuperated in the morning.

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