Sleep problems in later life

Sleeping elsewhere

Many people told us they slept better when they were away from home, whether it was on holiday, staying with family or visiting friends. Some people thought there was no difference in how they slept, but that they sometimes found different ways to deal with their poor sleep when they were away. Only a few people said they slept less well than they normally do when they are away.
Those who told us that they always slept better when they went away gave several reasons for why this might be so. Several people explained that being away from the normal worries and stresses of everyday life helped them sleep better. Others felt it was because they were much busier when on holiday, going out and about, and generally being more physically active.
Being somewhere quieter than they are used to was one reason for sleeping better when away from home. Sue B. told us she slept much better at her husband’s house in France because it was in a quiet location, and John noticed that when it was really quiet in Florence he slept very well. But often people told us they thought it was a combination of factors, such as a change in routine, being active and being away from problems.
Anne explained that whilst she did sleep better when she was away on holiday, she had mixed feelings about sleeping at someone else’s house. At her sister’s house, for example, she felt she couldn’t get up as early as she would normally like to in case she disturbed everyone, but at the same time because she wasn’t in her own home she didn’t feel pressured to be up doing household chores.
Holidays and times away were seen as very important, and for those who slept better away from home this was especially true. However those who slept less well whilst they were away, sometimes felt less like being away from the familiarity of their home.
Several people told us they slept less well when they were away because they didn’t have their own familiar, bed or bedding. Mary finds it difficult sleeping when she is away for several reasons. At home she finds if she is too hot or too cold she can’t sleep, and whereas she can alter the heating in her own home, it is difficult to get the temperature right in hotels. Mary and her husband are used to sleeping in single beds at home, and when they have to share a double bed in a hotel, she doesn’t sleep very well. Just being away from home for some people was enough to disturb their sleep more than it already was disturbed, without any specific reason.
For those who have health problems which hinder their mobility, going away brings extra problems and plans need to be made to cater for that. Juliet, who lives in a bungalow, explained how she had to sleep on a sofa downstairs in a cottage where she stays because she couldn’t easily climb the stairs to go to bed.
Some people told us they didn’t notice any difference in their sleep when they were away - if they tossed and turned at home, they would carry on doing that while they were away. But what did change for them is how they managed their disturbed sleep. If they were staying in a hotel for example, they weren’t always able to get up and make a cup of tea, or get on with household chores. Staying with family or friends also meant they might not be able to get up very early in the morning and come downstairs, in case they disturbed others in the house.

Last reviewed October 2018.


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