How to Sleep Well in a Hostel: A Beginner’s Guide
The idea of getting a decent night’s sleep in a hostel might seem like a bit of an oxymoron to you.
If you’re a light sleeper or struggle to drift off, or if you’ve not had much experience sleeping in shared dorms, then the idea of trying to sleep in a room with eight other people might sound like a recipe for a night spent staring at the ceiling. Or at the underside of the bunk above you.
There are all kinds of upsides to hostels. They’re fantastic for meeting people, for getting the best tips from the staff, and for saving money. But they’re generally not famous for offering good quality shut-eye.
In my time, I’ve spent more nights than I can count in bunk beds in hostel rooms all over the world. From the fanciest 4-bed dorm in a stunning hostel in New Orleans, to the grungiest 36-bed (I kid you not – and there was one bathroom) dorm in a party hostel in Freemantle, Western Australia. They called that room ‘The Pleasure Dome’. Yes, really.
So, basically, I’ve done my time, and I’ve figured out how to make the best of what are sometimes bad situations. I’ve tried to make sure that I always get the best quality sleep possible, so I’m full of energy to take on the next day of exploring.
I haven’t got a magic trick that will guarantee you’ll be able to sleep if drifting off is tricky for you at the best of times. But, these tips should help you sleep better, if not perfectly.
1. Spend a little more
The sad truth is that if good quality rest is a priority for you, then you might find that you need to spend a little more to get it. There are a few things that money can buy you when it comes to hostels.
If you opt for a smaller dorm within the same hostel, then there will be fewer people coming in and out and turning on the light at 3 o’clock in the morning.
But this isn’t a guarantee. Sod’s law could mean that even if your dorm is tiny, you still end up sleeping right above someone who snores very loudly. Just be mentally prepared for that eventuality.
As well as different prices within the one hostel, slightly more expensive hostels will probably be slightly better quality.
Your bed linen will be nicer. The bunks might not creak. The noise insulation might be better. The rooms might be kept at a more comfortable temperature… If you can afford it, then spending a little more could make all the difference.
2. Don’t choose a party hostel
If a hostel actively advertises the fact it’s a party hostel and you’re worried about not sleeping well, then avoid it like the plague. Party hostels are great for party animals who crawl into bed at 5 am and are capable of staying asleep even when everyone starts getting up in the morning.
When considering your different options, have a careful read of the description and the reviews. If the reviews mention that the crowd is a bit more ‘chilled’ or ‘mature’, then that probably means you’re more likely to get better sleep.
Whilst you’re reading the reviews, have a look to see if anyone mentions that the beds are particularly comfortable, or that they slept particularly well, or vice versa.
Don’t worry, though. Even at the most relaxed hostels that draw a slightly older crowd, you can still meet plenty of people and have some brilliant nights out.
3. Take a look at the photos
When you’re deciding between hostels, look to see if any of them have bunks with curtains that you can draw around them to form a kind of cocoon. That creates your own little private space, which can make it easier to relax.
If there are no hostels with curtains available, then opt for a bottom bunk. Use a sarong or a towel to create your own make-shift curtain for the same effect.
4. Check the security features
Is one of the things that’s keeping you awake at night a nagging worry that your belongings might not be as safe as they would be if you had your own room?
Check the security features before you book. Look at like whether all of the rooms have individual keys, whether each bed has a locker, and if you need to bring your own padlock.
5. Bring an eye mask and earplugs
In a hostel, they can mean that you’re not bothered by people coming in and out of the dorm at all hours of the night.
6. Use a sleep timer
This might not work for everyone, but my main trick for drifting off in a noisy environment these days is listening to one of my favorite podcasts or an audiobook.
Most podcast apps and the Audible app have sleep timer functions. That means that they’ll switch themselves off after 15 minutes or half an hour, or however long you set them for.
That way you can happily zone out of the world around you. Be lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of one of your favorite podcasters.
This tactic helped me to drown out the deafening snores of the person below me in a hostel in Texas a few months ago.
7. Take care of yourself
If you’re not properly nourished, then you won’t sleep well wherever you are. Make sure you’re eating well, drinking plenty of water and don’t overdo it on the alcohol. Booze might knock you out to start with, but it’ll be poor quality sleep, and you’ll soon be up nursing a hangover.
Doing plenty of exercise during the day can help tire you out, meaning you sleep more deeply and wake up more rested.
8. Get comfy
When you’re packing for your trip, don’t forget to put in your favorite pair of pajamas. Ones that you won’t mind being caught in the corridor in if you have to go out to the bathroom. That will make you feel more at home.
Things like a travel blanket can also be great if you tend to get cold in the night and the hostel hasn’t provided an extra layer.
9. Accept it
If you accept from the very beginning that the chances are that you aren’t going to sleep that well, you might well be pleasantly surprised.