7 Tips How To Sleep Better At High Altitude

How To Sleep Better At High Altitude

If you're planning a trip to a high-altitude destination, whether it's for a mountain adventure or just a scenic getaway, adjusting to the lower oxygen levels can be challenging on your sleep and even cause insomnia. As a company with over ten years of mountain experience, we'll share our top tips how to sleep better at high altitude.

Intro: The Challenge of Sleeping at High Altitude

When you venture to high-altitude destinations, the decrease in oxygen levels can have a significant impact on your sleep patterns. Keep reading to discover why this happens and how to sleep better at high altitude.

Does High Altitude Affect Sleep?

Yes, high altitude can negatively affect sleep and even lead to altitude insomnia.

Common issues include difficulty falling asleep, restless nights, frequent awakenings during the night, fatigue, poor sleep quality, and waking up feeling tired and groggy.

Why Is It Hard To Sleep In High Altitude?

It is hard to sleep in high altitude due to a combination of factors that affect our body's natural sleep patterns and overall comfort. The main culprit is caused by the lower oxygen levels as the air becomes thinner, which causes altitude sickness.

With lower oxygen, your heart rate and breathing rate can increase as your body strives to compensate for the diminished oxygen supply. To add to the physiological issues, oxidative stress increases and the dry high-altitude air can also cause dehydration.

All the stress add up and can lead to a poor nights sleep. But these symptoms of altitude sickness can range beyond sleeping issues, and may include:

  • insomnia
  • difficulty sleeping
  • trouble breathing
  • increased respiration
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • fatigue or tiredness
  • weakness
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling ill

For these reasons, you'll want to learn how to sleep better at high altitude if you have an upcoming trip.

5 Tips How To Sleep Better At High Altitude

If you're sleeping at high altitudes it can often lead to restless nights, insomnia, and fatigue.

But fear not! As a company with 10 years high-altitude experience, we'll share with you the top tips how to sleep better at high altitude. By following a few strategic steps, you can adapt to the altitude, ensure a more restful sleep, and a better trip.

7 Tips How To Sleep Better At High Altitude:

1. Get Plenty Of Sunlight

Exposing yourself to natural sunlight during the day can help regulate your body's internal clock and has been shown in research to boost melatonin at night.²

Get plenty of sunlight during the day. This can help make it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning.

2. Gradual Acclimatization

Ascending fast can worsen altitude sickness. If you gradually acclimate, you'll help your body adapt to the altitude more smoothly.

For example, in Colorado many visitors will stay a 1-2 nights in Denver at 5,280 feet before venturing off into the Rocky Mountains where altitudes range from 7,000 to 14,000 feet. This gradual approach can significantly reduce the chances of sleep disturbances and other negative symptoms of altitude sickness.

3. Hydration is Key

The dry air and increased breathing rate can lead to significant fluid loss, estimated to happen twice as fast at high altitudes.³ Fluid intake was also shown to effect sleep efficiency and even REM sleep.

Hydration is key to help sleep better at high altitudes, aim to drink at least half your body weight in water per day.

TIP: To maximize hydration, add sea salt (containing minerals) to your food/water, and take Zaca's hydration chewables to help increase water absorption.

4. Sleep In Complete Darkness

Darkness signals to the body for melatonin production. Light has the opposite effect, and even blue lights from cell phones and electronics can negatively effect your circadian rhythms.

To maximize your sleep quality at high altitudes, sleep in complete darkness as best as possible by eliminating any lights in the bedroom.

TIP: Use blackout curtains or consider an eye mask to help eliminate light to sleep in complete darkness.

5. Avoid Alcohol

While it might be tempting to unwind with a drink when you reach your high-altitude destination, alcohol can have a negative impact on your sleep cycles and your ability to achieve deep sleep. One study in Finland showed alcohol to decrease sleep quality by between 24% and 40%.⁶

Mixing alcohol and high altitudes makes the effect even worse on your body, you should avoid alcohol to optimize your sleep until you're fully acclimated.

6. Take Melatonin

Supplementing melatonin has been shown to improve bed rest and lower perception of fatigue.¹¹ With relevance and benefit to people at high elevations, melatonin could be helpful for your first night or two sleeping.¹¹
The downside of melatonin is the common side effects that potentially come with it, including headache, dizziness, nausea, and even daytime drowsiness.¹²

7. Replenish Antioxidants

High altitudes with less oxygen can increase free radical damage, which can put more oxidative stress on your body.⁷ In recent research, antioxidants have even shown to be helpful as a sleeping aid.¹⁰

One study revealed high altitudes to deplete glutathione, the body's master antioxidants, by up to 45%.⁸ Considering these facts, supplementing antioxidants including glutathione can help replenish your levels will help support to combat oxidative stress.

Incorporating these seven tips can help you solve the problem of how to sleep better at high altitude — including getting plenty of sunlight, gradually acclimating, hydration, sleeping in complete darkness, avoiding alcohol, taking melatonin, and replenishing antioxidants. Enjoy a more restful and rejuvenating sleep experience your next trip amidst the breathtaking landscapes of elevated destinations!

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1. The Trouble With Sleep: Insomnia At High Altitude
2. How Sun Exposure Affects Sleep and Melatonin Production
3. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
4. The Effect of Hydration Status on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Study
5. Effects of Alcohol
6. Can Just One Drink Ruin Your Sleep
7. High altitude and oxidative stress
8. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
9. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure
10. Antioxidants May Help You Catch More Productive Sleep
11. Can melatonin be used as a potential antioxidant and sleep aid supplement for high-altitude travelers? 
12. Is melatonin a helpful sleep aid — and what should I know about melatonin side effects?