Let’s face it: sharing a room with eleven strangers doesn’t exactly create the ideal sleeping situation. Chances are one person will snore like a freight train, someone else will come stumbling into the room drunk at 3:00 a.m., and a third person’s alarm will go off before the sun rises. And they will hit snooze repeatedly.
God knows what stunts the other eight people will pull.
Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to sleep like a baby in a hostel in spite of your unpredictable surroundings:
Choose the Right Hostel
Just because a hostel gets good reviews, doesn’t mean your sleeping situation will be ideal. Read some reviews and look over some pictures to answer some important questions about the hostel. What do guests say about the beds? Is the hostel known for its late night rooftop bar and nightly pub crawls? Is the building located on a noisy street? What is the fan/air conditioning/heater situation?
For me, I always base my choice of hostel around where I will get the best night’s sleep. Your quality of sleep affects your entire existence traveling. Do your research and travel rested.
Find the Right Bed
Most hostels allow you to choose which bed you will be sleeping in. Check in to your hostel as early as possible to get your first choice of beds. I always try to find a bed tucked away in the corner away from the main door and the bathroom. Top bunks have more natural privacy, but bottom bunks give you more freedom to get in and out of your bed comfortably. Find that perfect bed and never let it go.
Ask for Extras
Any hostel that is worth staying in will have a surplus of bedding to make sure their guests are comfortable. Get an extra sheet to hang along your bunk if you need more privacy. Ask for an extra blanket if the room gets chilly at night. Grab a second pillow if you’re like me and need that extra layer of luxury. Ask and you shall (usually) receive.
Wear Yourself Out
Get out of the hostel early and explore your surroundings until you are exhausted both mentally and physically. Explore bustling and intense markets, practice new languages with locals, set lofty step goals, and exercise every chance you get. Stagnant and unfulfilling days will keep you awake at night. Don’t be that weirdo staring at the ceiling at 3:00 a.m. in the hostel room.
Put Away the Screens
It’s no secret: staring at your phone or laptop in bed will stimulate your mind and keep you awake. Make a pact with yourself to put away your screens at least an hour before bedtime. Give your mind time to unwind and fade away effortlessly into dreamland.
(I’ll admit it, I’m really bad at this one. But we all have things to work on, right?)
For me, trying to go to bed dehydrated is a recipe for disaster. I toss and turn, my legs twitch, and I generally have a terrible time. Recently, after years of unsatisfying rest, I made an effort to start drinking more water every day and it has made a gigantic difference in my quality of sleep.
If you’re constantly fatigued, thirsty, and have trouble falling asleep, you are definitely dehydrated. Drinking lots of caffeine or alcohol will only add to the problem.
There is no magic amount of water that will get you hydrated, but drinking two liters a day is a great place to start. Hydrate and hibernate.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the pineal gland (and also found in plants) that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Translation: taking melatonin is a healthy way to knock you out in a less-than-ideal sleeping situation. I usually take 3 mg of this stuff an hour before I want to fall asleep and it always gets the job done. Also, I don’t wake up feeling groggy like I do after taking artificial sleep aids.
This is the most valuable piece of hostel/sleep advice I can give you.
Earplugs are absolutely essential to maintaining a hostel-dwellers sanity. They take a bit of getting used to, but will muffle all the snoring, shuffling, and snooze buttoning that will drive you mad. They’re also great for airplanes, buses, or generally annoying situations. Seriously, use earplugs. Here’s my favorite brand.
Start Sleeping Better in Hostels Immediately
Missing out on sleep while you’re traveling can be downright maddening. No $9 hostel bed will ever be worth the savings if you can’t find a way to get some sufficient rest. A sleepless night will wreck travel plans and ruin opportunities.
Hostels are full of constant distractions and noisy strangers that will keep you awake if you let them. If you’re having trouble falling (and staying) asleep, do yourself a favor and take some of my advice. Trust me, I’ve slept through it all.