9 Top Tips For Sleeping In A Hostel

Written by: Chris Richardson

As much as I love the idea of staying in a hostel when travelling, sleeping in a hostel was always something I’d get nervous about before a trip. Sometimes I’d have great roommates in my shared dorm room or, on the rare occasion, get a room to myself. Other times I had backpackers who only cared about themselves.

For those who need a good night’s rest or go to bed early, be prepared for others who snore, come and go at night or the worst of all. Turn the light on at 2 am, waking everyone up.

How do you sleep in a hostel?

The key to a good night’s rest in a hostel is doing what works best for you while not upsetting anybody else in the hostel dorm around you.

So let me preface these tips or guides to sleeping in hostels with an asterisk, as not all of these may work for you. This is just based on my own experience and the friends I’ve travelled with.

1. Relax

There is usually a lot of anxiety about sleeping in a room full of strangers, especially in a mixed dorm room. As fun as hostels are when it comes to bedtime, people get a bit weird about walking around in their pyjamas and sleeping close to strangers they’ve just met.

Just remember everyone is in the same situation as you, and everyone knows to respect bedtime. Nobody wants to lose sleep by being noisy or disruptive to one other.

You’ll get the occasional bad egg who doesn’t care. On the whole, though, there’s a bit of an unwritten rule or call it good hostel etiquette, that sleep time is sacred, and if you mess with that, the collective will let you know about it.

It’s easier to sleep if you are not too caught up in everyone around you. Take 5 minutes of quiet time if you find being around everyone those first few nights unsettling.

2. Pick Your Hostel Carefully

If sleep is something, you value, select the best hostel carefully. While sometimes, there might not be a lot of options during peak season or a lack of options where you are going. If you want to sleep, avoid hostels promoting themselves as party hostels or ones with a bar and other loud activities advertised on their booking page or in the reviews left by others.

Those will be noisy hostels, and the travellers staying in those dorms will not be looking to keep the noise down.

Reviews are great to read when deciding where to stay, as they are left by others who have stayed at that hostel. If many reviews talk about parties or loud guests, perhaps skip that hostel.

Another thing to be aware of is the location of your hostel. Being in the centre of the action is convenient. Still, if that location is surrounded by bars and other nightlife, you’ll probably struggle with sleeping in hostels located in those areas.

Choosing a hostel recommended by other solo travellers or people you meet while travelling can be great advice to follow. The best hostels usually get mentioned this way, and you can trust the advice directly from someone who stayed there.

3. Pick The Right Bed

Pick the right bed for a good sleep at night

Afraid of heights? Then always ask to sleep on the bottom bunk if you can on your booking request or when you arrive at the hostel. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the bottom bunk as it’s usually first in, first served every time, but it never hurts to ask.

Generally, if you get to the hostel right on check-in time or check in as early as possible, you can choose your bed in the room provided the hostel room is not already full.

My preference for picking the right hostel bed was one further away from the door to avoid people coming and going right near my head. It was usually in a corner, so it allowed extra space around the bed to help those who liked some more room.

I also preferred the bottom bunk to the top bunk as it allowed me to get in and out with less noise and was easy access to go to the bathroom at night. Though some friends like the top bunk as then they had a bit more privacy from people sleeping around them. I don’t know why. Every time I was on a top bunk, rolling over would make the whole bed shake.

4. Dress Appropriately

This might seem obvious but always dress appropriately when planning to sleep in a hostel. You are sharing a room with strangers who might not appreciate more out there attire. This means no naked sleeping or getting around almost naked in your underwear.

What do you wear to sleep in a hostel then? A t-shirt, boxer shorts, or a decent set of pyjamas is a good option.

I’m not saying others will be a prude. It’s just to be more respectful of the people around you. What you might find fine could make others uncomfortable.

5. Create A Space For Yourself

If you find that the busyness of the hostel room or sharing a dorm with other people at night messes with your sleep. Create a space for yourself. This works better for those that get a bottom bunk bed.

You can hang your towel or a light sheet from the bunk above your bed. Tuck it under the mattress above so it won’t fall, and it’s not in the way of the person above you.

This creates a curtain to help give you space between yourself and the other people in the room, which should help you sleep better. It also acts as a shield from people who turn the light on at night or rise early and move around the room.

Another option when booking a hostel is to look for any that provide bunk beds with curtains already. These are becoming more common, especially in boutique hostels or ones that provide pod-style sleeping options.

6. Bring A Mask And Earplugs

Sleep with an eye mask on at night to get a good sleep.

An eye mask or sleeping mask and earplugs or headphones are said to be the ultimate sleep aids for sleeping in a hostel room. But I hated them. Having something in my ears while sleeping annoyed me more than the noise people made (it didn’t help I slept on my side), and a mask felt like too much pressure on my head to relax.

I wanted to love using earplugs or use headphones so I could fall asleep to music and drown out everything around me. I’ve often done that on the train or long bus rides, but it just didn’t work in bed.

If, however, you find sleeping with these a non-issue, then, by all means, bring them with you. Many hostels offer earplugs for sale if you need them urgently due to a noisy hostel.

7. Lock Away Your Belongings

On my first night in a hostel, I was worried someone would steal my valuables while I slept. I am sure I checked that I had put all my belongings in the locker and locked it at least ten times.

If you are worried about your stuff being touched, moved or stolen, put what you can in your locker. Then stash your phone and wallet under your pillow or down the far side of your bed.

Once you can relax about everything else, you’ll be more likely to fall asleep. But know, nobody is there to steal from you. Many hostels, if not all, have lockers in your room or under your bed. If you book a hostel without one, put your backpack on the far side of your bed for safety.

8. No Lights At Night

This is obvious, but never turn the light on at night or shine a torch or your phone around when entering or leaving the room. Give your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the light in the room as you enter and navigate slowly around.

If you need to see something or get something from your bag, hold your hand over your torch or phone light to muffle its glow. Nobody likes a light shining in their eyes while trying to sleep.

While you might be able to sleep at the drop of a hat or be the person who can sleep anywhere, others may be light sleepers or have to get up early and don’t need your being inconsiderate shining a light in their faces or rustling in your bag at all hours.

9. Enjoy Yourself In Moderation

Too much of a good thing can catch up with you. Going out and partying late at night or not resting between big days out exploring can mess with your sleeping pattern. Or cause you to snore like a freight train robbing others of good sleep.

I fully understand how travel becomes addictive and how you feel like there’s too much to see and do and not enough time to do it all.

I became addicted to seeing new city after new city. I was moving too quickly and trying to do too much. It caught up with me when I fell sick and had issues sleeping. I’d become a bit of an insomniac, wanting to fall asleep but unable.

Remember to schedule down days. Relaxing just people-watching, grabbing a movie, spending some time in a park for some quiet hours or reading a book in the common room. Anything to balance out the travel side and hostel life of your adventure now and then to help regulate your body.

Still Can’t Sleep?

If all else fails and you still have issues getting a good night’s sleep while travelling. Consider one of the following tips and tricks as emergency options to do now and then:

  • Book a private room for a night to give you your own space away from the main hostel dorms
  • Take a sleeping pill to help you rest
  • Ask to move dorm rooms if people are too disruptive
  • Treat yourself to a hotel or Airbnb for the night
  • Look into melatonin tablets
  • Practice good sleep hygiene or create a sleep schedule
  • Stay off your phone or computer a few hours before bed
  • Plan to get up super early one morning to help make you extra tired at the end of the day
  • Stay in hostels further from the busy city. A calmer neighbourhood might help you sleep
  • Meet people in the hotel and get to know them. Talk with your roommates. The less they feel like strangers, the easier you’ll fall asleep around them

You want to ensure you can get a good night’s sleep. Too many restless nights leave you grumpy, low on energy and just no fun to be around. You’ll also lack the motivation to go out and do something. Hostels can be challenging but are a lot of fun.

So however you find your sleeping routine when staying at a hostel, be sure you find one that works so your nights sleeping in a hostel don’t ruin your fun.