How to Sleep Better on Higher Altitude

Riya Sen

, Health

Travelling is a favorite past time of many people and some of the most fascinating destinations are on a high altitude. If you are also planning one such trip then it is important to be prepared as you will have to make some acclimatization to adjust to that altitude. It does not just cause nausea and dizzyness it also affects sleep quality. Read below to learn how to sleep better in such places: 

What is High Altitude?

Altitude between 5000 ft and 11,500 ft above sea level is considered as high altitude. Anything above 11,500 ft and 18,000 ft is known as very high altitude and when it is above 18000 ft above sea level it is extreme altitude. 

The atmospheric pressure at lower levels has greater pressure since the air molecules are compressed due to the air above them. But at higher altitudes, there is not much air above and hence molecules are spread. Thus there is less atmospheric pressure. Moreover, at higher altitudes, there is less oxygen delivered to the body as the molecules are dispersed. So when you are at an altitude of 12,000 ft you are getting 40% less oxygen than sea level. At 18,000 ft there is 50% less oxygen than at sea level. You can feel shortness of breath when you do physical activities like hiking or mountain climbing. 

Tips To Sleep Better At High Altitudes

Sleeping at an altitude even 10,000 ft above sea level is difficult and fitful and affects the body. Oxygen which is an essential component in the air that you breathe is about 20.9%. This level reduces and becomes about 13.2% at 12,000 ft. Here are some tips to improve sleep at high altitude:

Consume light food: Another useful tip for those living in high altitudes to avoid any food that hampers blood circulation and makes the digestive tract work harder. One such food to completely avoid is red meat. Since the oxygen levels are less, there is low blood flow to many organs and one such is the digestive system. If you can’t resist red meat dishes then have them 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. As you know sleeping at high altitudes or otherwise, dinner should be light and in small quantities so that it can get digested. More so in higher altitudes due to reduced oxygen levels, the digestive system does not get the necessary blood and takes a long time to perform its functions. 

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Taking medications: The lack of oxygen at high altitude can affect sleep as there is irregular breathing. Due to a lack of oxygen supply to the body during each breath, and to keep up with the oxygenation, the body concludes that it has to undergo rapid breathing. This can lead to tachypnea which releases more CO2 and takes in more oxygen and causes sleep apnea in people who have this complication. To combat this loss of CO2, the sensors in the body slow down the breathing. There is an alternation of rapid breathing and slow breathing and that means you are unable to sleep properly. 

To overcome this issue, one can use medications like acetazolamide which releases bicarbonate in the urine. This loss of bicarbonate through the urine makes the body acidic. Since C02 is also acidic, the expulsion of bicarbonate makes the body think that there is no shortage of CO2 and hence there will be no reduction in breathing. So you sleep better at night. 

Drink Herbal Tea: Drinking herbal tea like coca tea is also considered useful to get rid of altitude sickness. The coca has many medicinal properties that get released when you brew it. It also contains an alkaloid that is useful for nausea and vomiting that is common in high altitudes which results in disturbed sleep especially at night. Coca leaf is also known to improve metabolism and energy levels when consumed during the day which results in better sleep at night. Check with the locals to find that useful herbal tea.

Stay Hydrated: Consume a lot of fluids as it helps to sleep better. If you have been physically active during the day doing hiking, mountaineering, etc there will be loss of fluids due to sweating and hence water needs to be replenished to the body. Also at night, when the body breathes faster to consume more oxygen it results in loss of fluids at every breathe. Added to this if you consume alcohol, it further dehydrates the body. To overcome the loss of fluids due to all of these reasons drink plenty of water or other fluids. 

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Use Oxygenation Systems: Altitude induced insomnia can be reduced with the help of oxygenation as per studies. When oxygen is increased in the bedroom similar to what is found at sea levels, there can be a reduction in insomnia at high altitudes. There are many sophisticated room oxygenation systems that can be used by homeowners to simulate the same levels of oxygen as at sea level. The system contains a molecular sieve that is used to extract oxygen, concentrate, and deliver to the room. There will be sensors to measure the air quality and oxygen level and a controller to provide proper oxygen. This system makes a huge difference in sleep. 

Use Proper Travel Accessories: After a long day of activity, the mind is full of images of nature but the body craves for a comfortable sleep. Another thing to remember is that the nights get chilly as the temperature drops. You may sweat during the day but you will freeze at night and that can leave you sleepless. Use warm blankets and coats and also ensure that you sleep on the right mattress. If you are camping, sleeping on a comfy bed is out of the question but at least you can count on your Wakefit travel pillow. These contour to the shape of your head and neck and give you comfortable and sound sleep even at high altitudes.  

Drink plenty of water, consume light food, avoid alcohol, and wear comfy and warm clothes to sleep well. Keep a filled water bottle handy as you make wake up with dry mouth at night and have a nightmare less sleep even at very high or extreme altitudes. Happy vacationing and sleeping!