Sleeping in Hostels: 8 Tips for Falling (and Staying) Asleep

Water, earplugs, glasses, melatonin, and a plant on a bedside table in a hostel to help sleeping
Sleeping in Hostels: 8 Tips to Get Some Damn Good Rest

Let’s face it: finding sleep in a hostel dorm with eleven strangers doesn’t exactly come easy. Chances are, one person will snore like a freight train, another will stumble into the room drunk at 3:00 a.m., and a third person’s alarm will go off well before the sun rises (and they will hit snooze repeatedly).

God only knows what stunts the other people will pull.

Here are eight invaluable tips I’ve learned throughout my years of travel that help me sleep well in hostel dorms, in spite of my surroundings. Every. Damn. Night.

Choose the Right Hostel

The front of a building called "Hanoi Amazing Hostel"
Hanoi Amazing Hostel: A sleeping backpacker’s paradise

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?

I always base my choice of hostel around where I have the best chance of sleeping well. Being well-rested (or not) affects your entire existence while traveling. Do your research and sleep like a baby.

I use to research and reserve the majority of my hostel beds but use Hostelworld on occasion if I can’t find what I’m looking for.

Find the Right Bed

Most hostels allow you to choose the bed you get to sleep in. Do your best to check in as early as possible to ensure you get your first choice of beds. I usually 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, settle in, and never let it go.

Wear Yourself Out

A hiker with a hat on a winding mountain trail
Exercise while traveling makes sleep come naturally

Get out of the hostel early and explore your surroundings. Exhaust yourself both mentally and physically. Explore bustling, intense markets, practice new languages with locals, take 20,000 steps a day, and exercise every chance you get.

Stagnant and unfulfilling days aren’t a recipe for sleeping well in your hostel. Don’t be that insomniac staring wide-eyed at the hostel ceiling at 3:00 a.m.

Ask for Extras

Any hostel worth staying in will have a surplus of extra sleeping supplies 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.


A man drinks from a water bottle on a ferry with a motorbike at his side
Drinking plenty of water = setting yourself up for success

For me, trying to go to bed dehydrated is a recipe for disaster. I toss and turn, my legs twitch, and I never sleep well. 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’re 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.

For travel, I use a collapsible water bottle and purify any questionable water with my lightweight Sawyer Squeeze water filter.

Take Melatonin

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 sleeping better in a less-than-ideal hostel setting.

I take a 5 mg capsule of melatonin an hour before I want to fall asleep and drift away into dreamland effortlessly. And I don’t wake up feeling groggy like I would after taking artificial sleep aids.

Put Away the Screens

A man in a hostel with sleepy eyes staring into a computer screen
Try to put away phones, computers, and tablets at least an hour before bedtime

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?

Use Earplugs!

This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you.

If you want to start sleeping well in hostels, you need to have a good set of earplugs.

Earplugs are essential to maintaining a hostel dweller’s sanity. They take a little getting used to but are well worth the short adjustment period. A solid set of earplugs will muffle all the snoring, shuffling, and snooze buttoning that can disrupt your precious sleep cycle. They’re also great for airplanes, buses, and generally annoying situations.

Seriously, use earplugs.

I use these earplugs – they’re extremely comfortable and effective.

Start Sleeping Better in Hostels Immediately

Failing to get a proper night’s sleep while traveling can be maddening, and no $9 hostel bed will ever be worth the savings if you can’t get some decent rest. A sleepless night will wreck travel plans and ruin opportunities.

Hostel rooms are full of distractions and noisy strangers that will keep you awake if you give them the chance. If you’re having trouble sleeping well in hostels, just know that there’s hope (as long as you take some of my advice.)

Trust me, I’ve slept through it all.

Last Updated on August 1, 2023

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Noel Krasomil

Hey, I'm Noel Krasomil, the founder of The Packable Life. I pack light and explore the globe searching for awe-inspiring hiking trails, rich cultural experiences, and ways to continue traveling indefinitely.

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