A backpacking holiday is one of the most rewarding trips you can take allowing you to take in multiple countries and cultures. Ensuring you get good sleep is one of the main factors that will determine how much you enjoy your trip.
If you’re lucky enough to have a larger budget, then you can have the luxury of staying in a hotel which can be difficult at times but is still significantly better than a hostel. A hostel is often cheaper but means that you have a whole load of factors to consider that can affect the quality of your sleep.
So not only are you in an unfamiliar country and culture but you now have to share this space with a bunch of strangers. All is not lost because there are many things you can do to ensure that you can continue to sleep effectively.
Research, Research, Research.
Part of hostel life is that they are going to be loud. Most travellers who use hostels are looking for fun and to make friends and be social. There will be a difference in noise from hostel to hostel, and the internet is your friends so that you can look at reviews.
It’ll be clear from online reviews which hostels have a reputation of being party hostels and which ones will be quieter. You can also check out the hostels' website itself and if it boasts about having all-night parties, entertainment or bars then you can get an idea of how loud it will be because this doesn’t make it ideal if you’re aiming to maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Even if you’re looking for a party hostel, it’s better to know what you’re getting yourself into instead of going in blind and being surprised once you arrive. Staying in a party hostel isn't ideal if you’re aiming to maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Party hostels are an enticing option for travellers because it offers the opportunity for them to meet like-minded social people who are looking to make friends.
In a hostel, privacy is the last thing you’ll have, but there are a few ways that you can build a little bit of privacy. If you’re on the bottom row of the bunk bed, then you can use a long piece of material which can either be a sarong or towel. This will necessarily give you a mini wall which can improve the quality of your sleep by blocking out any light or sound.
Being social is one of the key ways to get a great nights sleep. When you first arrive be friendly and introduce yourself to everyone that’s in your dorm. This isn’t only just a nice thing to do, but if you’re a familiar person to the other people, then they’re more likely to be quiet when they either leave early in the morning or come in late at night.
You don’t just want to be the anonymous person that nobody knows. Being friendly also gives you more social things to do in the day making your overall travelling experience more enjoyable.
Females – Move to a female only dorm
Some hostels offer ladies only dorms for extra privacy; however, this can also help you to get better quality sleep. Men are much more likely to snore than women and are more disruptive sleepers, so choosing a female, the only dorm could remove one potential symptom of sleep disruption.
Upgrade to a Private Room
A few years ago this would have been unheard of. But with the rise in different types of people travelling this has resulted in a broader range of hostels with the emergence of higher-end solutions. These include private rooms which are a common occurrence, so you can either have them to yourself, or you can share with your friends.
If sleep is essential to you, then you may want to consider upgrading. A private room will also give you greater security so if you’re somebody that will find it hard to sleep because you’re worried about your possessions then this is a great added benefit.
If you know that you’re a light sleeper and it only takes the slightest noise to wake you up then staying in a shared dorm is going to cause havoc to your sleeping routine.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to choose the temperature of your shared hostel room so you need to prepare so you can sleep at your ideal temperature. If you’re someone who naturally sleeps hot, then you have the option of bringing cooling pillows or thin sheets that wick moisture away.
Whereas if you sleep cold then pack additional pyjamas and thick socks so you can quickly put them on if you begin to get cold. Another advantage of booking a private room as opposed to sharing a group room is that you may gain control of the thermostat for your room so you can create your ideal sleeping environment.
Choose the Best-Positioned Bed
Aim to arrive at the hostel at the earliest check-in time on your booking date which gives you the most extensive choice of bunks to pick. You need to be strategic with the bunk you pick. For example, choosing a bunk next to the door is likely going to be loud as you hear people coming in and out whereas a bunk next to an open window of a busy window could also provide the same issues.
Ideally, a bed in the corner away from the door and most of the people in the room is ideal. You also need to be aware of when or people in the room check out because it could be an opportunity for you to take their bed if it is better positioned than your own.
You also need to consider whether you take the top or bottom bunk. Some people find it uncomfortable sleeping in a bed high off the ground. There is no right answer for everyone because it will depend on your personal preferences.
Be Active Throughout the Day
One of the most effective ways to get to sleep quickly and stay asleep is to be active throughout the day. If you’re travelling, you’re most likely going to have a busy day climbing mountains and sightseeing.
This means that by the time you reach your bedtime you’ll be asleep like a light and noises that would usually disturb you won’t be a problem. Not only will this improve your sleep but you’ll also enjoy your travel more if doing more activities instead of not taking advantage of being in a new place with new people.
Implement Good Sleep Hygiene
You’re on holiday, so naturally, you’re going to stray slightly from the sleeping routine that you usually have when you’re at home, but you should try to stick to the following:
Have a consistent sleep routine where you wake up and go to sleep at the same time each night. It will be easier for your brain to shut down if it knows what time you’re going to sleep each night.
Of course, you’re going to indulge in different foods and drink, but if you’re serious about maintaining a good sleep routine then stay hydrated with water and avoid alcohol and heavy meals in the evening.
If you can’t stick to the same bedtime each night, then try to have the same pre-bed routine which will also send triggers in your brain that it can relate to sleep. This could be brushing your teeth, taking a warm shower or meditating.
Your mobile phone will be one of your trusty companions in your time away from home, but when you’re trying to sleep, it can be your biggest enemy. You should avoid using your phone within 30 minutes of trying to go to sleep. This is because the blue light the screen emits can interfere with your sleep cycle and delay sleep.
Use Sleep Enhancing Accessories
You shouldn’t go into a hostel expecting it to suit your sleeping routine, but you should come armed with accessories that can help to improve your sleep.
• A black eye mask will help to block out any external light which will be more of a problem in a hostel because you’ll have other guests coming in and out of the room throughout the night.
• Earplugs will block out the sound of other guests talking, snoring or rustling around. Air plugs are incredibly affordable.
• If earplugs aren’t your favoured choice, then you can get a pair of earphones and play white noise sounds which not only block external noise but give you a soothing audio backdrop making falling asleep simple.
These three accessories are incredibly cheap but worth their weight in gold for inducing sleep and limiting disturbances.
Go to Sleep Earlier
This may be hard if you’re keen also to have a good time and party but other people cause the biggest sleep disrupter in hostel dorms, so if you can avoid this noise then there’s a good chance you can get a good night’s sleep.
One way to do this is to get an early night’s sleep because if you’re one of the first to go to sleep, this can give you a better chance of getting into a deep sleep before noisy people arrive allowing you to sleep through the noise.
Bring Your Own Pillow
Bringing your pillow from home isn’t an option for everyone because space in your travel bag will be at a premium. You should consider this if you know that you struggle to sleep in new environments.
You’ll be sleeping on an unfamiliar bed and room, but the familiar smell and shape of your pillow will make your body get more used to sleeping in your new room.
Choose a Better Hostel
If you’re staying in a hostel then it’s highly likely that you’re working to a strict budget, but generally speaking, you’ll get what you pay for. Hostels can be extremely cheap per night, but there can sometimes be a trade-off where no amount of savings is worth having a bad nights sleep.
A bad nights sleep can ruin your day plans and if you’re struggling to sleep even after a few nights of acclimatisation then you may need to move to a different hostel.
Although we don’t recommend taking sleeping pills, Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that’s present in the body. This hormone is released in the brain and is responsible for making you feel tired and ready to sleep.
By regulating sleep and wakefulness, this makes it great to help you to fall asleep in a hostel environment. This is especially useful if you’ve just arrived at a hostel after flying from a different time zone which can make falling asleep even more difficult.
The main benefit of taking Melatonin over a sleeping pill is that you’re unlikely to get the same groggy feeling in the morning that many people experience when taking sleeping pills.
Have a Shower Before Bed
There have been numerous studies that have proven that it’s easier to fall asleep when our core temperature is lower. A cold shower before be is great for cooling down your body especially if you’re in a hostel in a warm climate.
Surprisingly a hot shower can be even more effective. This is because when we have a hot shower, vasodilation occurs which causes blood to move towards the surface of the skin. This is the reason why we get rosy cheeks.
Once you step out of the hot shower, the heat from your skin will then transfer into the colder air around you. This then results in your core temperature falling which then makes it easier to fall asleep.
Choose a Hostel with Air Con
Temperature control plays a big role in your sleep quality so it’s important to choose a hostel that has air con, especially if you’re going to a hot climate.
Without air con, first of all, may take you hours to fall asleep, and when you do finally fall asleep don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat.