Hostels can be a place where you hardly get any sleep, not only because you’re in an unfamiliar environment, but also because of noisy neighbors or people in your room. You can never predict who you’ll end up in a room with, but you can take certain steps to make the experience pleasant (and possibly have a good night’s sleep).
Guidelines for getting good sleep in a hostel
Make sure the hostel’s away from busy streets, airports, and nightclubs.
You can check this on a map but you can also take a look at what the reviews say. You are unlikely to wake up due to external noises in a peaceful neighborhood.
Read the reviews on popular websites.
Check several sources for information about the hostel itself. Some tend to be livelier than others and you’ll find the info on that in comments on reviews. If you’re not looking for a wild party hostel and want to have a quiet night, look for a place that matches your needs. Any hostel that underlines great socializing opportunities is likely to have loud parties until late at night. Also look for a safe place that has a locker option to keep your belongings safe while you’re getting your sleep.
Book in advance and ask for the right room.
Book well in advance so you can have the chance to pick the bed. Choose one in the corner away from doors, bathroom, and windows. Beds on top are better for privacy, but those on the bottom will let you get out and back in easily. When choosing the right bed keep in mind that cool air stays low whereas warm air rises up.
You can also ask for a room in a quieter part of the hostel – such as one that’s away from stairs or not facing the parking lot.
Account for jet lag and the first night effect
If you’re switching time zones, prepare yourself for the trip by adjusting your bedtime beforehand. Start going to bed earlier or later (depending on the local time of your destination) little by little in the week before your trip. On the first day upon arrival try to spend a lot of time in sunlight.
Most of us tend to sleep poorly during the first night in a new place. This is known as the first night effect. Scientists claim that during that night a part of our brain stays alert as a system of protection in unknown surroundings. On the other hand you may be one of the lucky ones who can sleep soundly anywhere.
Negotiate acceptable behavior and rules with your roommates
Talk to people you share the room with – learn about what they prefer, what they want to do, when they go to sleep. Ask them if they agree to turn off their smartphone sound and be quiet after a certain time – say, after 10:30 or 11. Be respectful of their requests and they are more likely to be respectful of yours. If people generally bug you you should know there’s also a private room option in the majority of hostels. It comes at a higher price.
Do you need to bring your own pillow?
Some people are in pain, others prefer sleeping in a certain position, and some simply don’t like pillows that are not theirs. If the pillow is extremely important for you, bring your own. A good pillow will help you sleep like a baby.
Protect yourself from distractions.
Bring a sleep mask with you. Even if there are blackout curtains, you can’t prevent lights from other people’s phones or the door opening and closing. Even low sounds are likely to wake you up in a new unknown place, so make sure to bring earplugs. It’s good to have them just in case.
Follow a set of sleep-promoting actions.
Even if you generally don’t have good bedtime habits, you can do these things to prepare your body and mind for sleep:
- Get away from technology – no phones, tablets, or computers. The screen light partially “imitates” sunlight (at least as far as your brain is concerned), and this inhibits hormones that make you sleepy. This can be super hard but try to communicate with your roommates instead or bring something else to occupy yourself with. Music over headphones is ok as long as it’s calming and on a low volume.
- Drink chamomile, nettle, or sleepy time tea. They are relaxing and help you fall asleep. Just make sure you don’t have the tea right before sleep – you don’t want to wake up for the bathroom in the middle of the night. If all fails, consider using a melatonin pill to help you fall and stay asleep.
- Have a warm shower about an hour before bed. Get the water really warm, and stay in the shower for about half an hour. Warm water dilates your blood vessels, which will keep cooling you down even when you get out of the shower. Go straight to bed and soon you’ll get sleepy.
Tweak your environment.
If you can’t relax because you feel like someone’s watching you, hang a towel over a side of the bed and make a partially private atmosphere. You can ask the staff for extra sheets for this purpose and if you tend to be cold you can also ask for extra blankets.
Breathe and relax your muscles.
Once you’re ready to sleep, control your thoughts – don’t let them wander around and delay your sleep. This goes especially for those who struggle with racing thoughts. Breathe deeply and relax all your muscles, group by group.