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How to Sleep in a Hostel: 12 Tips for Sleeping in Hostels

Hostels are a fantastic way to save money while traveling, but since you’re sharing a room with other people, they’re not always the easiest to sleep in. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up the idea of staying in one. Getting good sleep during your travels is important for staying healthy and having enough energy to explore, so the key is to make sleeping in hostels work for you.

As an avid traveler, I have plenty of real-world experience staying in hostels and over the years, have acquired helpful knowledge on tips to make it easier to sleep in a hostel. I’ll also share important, research-backed sleep hygiene tips you can apply as well.

Avoid Party Hostels

For some, hostels might conjure up thoughts of college-age travelers looking to party non-stop. However, what my experiences have taught me is that all kinds of travelers stay in hostels, and there are different types of hostels that cater to varying interests.

The first tip to getting good sleep in a hostel is to avoid staying in party hostels. Staying at a party hostel is fine if that’s what you’re looking to get out of your trip, but if good sleep while traveling is a priority, then steering clear of these hostels is the way to go.

Instead, look at more laid-back hostels that don’t advertise a focus on partying. Reading reviews from other travelers is also a good way to gain more insight into what a particular hostel is like.

Stay in Hostels With Privacy Curtains

If you’re sharing a room with other people, you can’t expect everyone else to be on the
same schedule as you, which means some roommates might have to turn on lights when they come in later at night. In this case, it’s helpful to book a hostel that provides privacy curtains for each bed.

Privacy curtains can not only help you feel more relaxed and comfortable, but they also help keep out light. To be sure a hostel has privacy curtains in their rooms, check out photos online before you book.

Book a Smaller Room

Another tip for sleeping better in hostels is to book smaller rooms. Some hostel rooms can have as many as 16 or more people, which means a greater likelihood of more noise. Instead, consider booking smaller rooms that sleep four to six people. From my experience, these rooms tend to be quieter, and while there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a soundproof night, this could help.

Bring Earplugs

Earplugs can be a big help when staying in hostels by helping to block out noise. Plus, earplugs are so small that they’re easy to travel with. However, because they’re so compact, they can sometimes be easy to lose, so I recommend bringing at least several pairs with you just in case.

If you’re not used to wearing earplugs, I recommend getting a pair before your trip and practicing wearing them while you sleep. This will help you get acclimated to them so that you’re more comfortable during your travels.

Helpful Finds: Best Earplugs for Sleeping

Wear an Eye Mask

Our body’s circadian rhythm controls many physiological functions, including our sleep-wake cycles, and light is a main driver of this 24-hour biological clock.1 To be more specific, when it’s light out, this tells your body that it’s time to be awake, and when it’s dark, the body knows to prepare itself for sleep.

That means when there are lights on in your hostel room at night, it makes it that much harder for sleep onset to begin. Ideally, your room should be dark enough to promote sleep, but when you’re staying in a room with other people, there’s no guarantee of this. Therefore, wearing an eye mask is a very helpful solution. Eye masks not only block out light, but they can be soft and soothing around the eyes. From my own experience, eye masks have been a big help in keeping me sound asleep at night while traveling.

As with earplugs, eye masks are also small enough that they’ll easily fit into your backpack or suitcase.

Ask for the Right Bed

With hostels, you won’t be sleeping on a hotel mattress, which is usually on a single, standalone bed. Rather, most hostels, whether it’s a room of 16 or six, provide bunk beds for people to sleep on.

When you check into your hostel, your bed is usually assigned to you, but if you have a comfort preference, I would recommend asking the front desk if you can request a top or bottom bunk, depending on what you want. Both have their pros and cons, but if there’s a certain one that will allow you to feel more comfortable, it’s worth it to ask.

Another tip is to ask for a bunk that’s away from the bathroom. During the night, roommates may need to get up to use the bathroom, so if you’re a light sleeper, it could be helpful to avoid staying in a bunk bed that’s close to the bathroom.

Keep a Set Sleep Schedule

A useful sleep hygiene tip that can apply to staying in hostels is to keep a set sleep schedule. By doing so, you’ll be able to train your circadian rhythm, which will help you feel more sleepy when bedtime rolls around. Another benefit to keeping a set schedule is that it provides a better guarantee you’ll get enough hours of sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should get at least seven hours of sleep every night so try to factor this into your sleep schedule both at home and abroad.2

Don’t Look at Your Phone Before Bed

While you may be tempted to scroll through your photos or social media before bed, this can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Screen devices such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets produce what’s known as blue light, and while all forms of light can suppress melatonin production, blue light is especially strong at this.3

Melatonin is an important hormone for promoting sleep, and when it’s dark out, the body produces more of it to help foster sleepiness. However, exposure to blue light can impact this, tricking your body into thinking it’s time to be awake.

Try Melatonin or Chamomile Tea

Another potential solution for better sleep in hostels is to take a melatonin supplement. These supplements can come in various forms, such as capsules, tablets, or gummies, and they are meant to provide you with extra melatonin to help promote sleep.

That being said, I recommend first talking with your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you to take melatonin, and you should follow the recommended dosage guidelines. If you’re traveling abroad, it’s also worth checking to see if you can legally bring melatonin into the country. Different countries have different laws on what travelers can bring with them, so having a thorough understanding of this beforehand will save you any headaches once you get there.

Another consideration is to try chamomile tea, which is considered a natural sleep aid. Drinking tea before bed can also help you unwind from a busy day of exploring.

Avoid Daytime Naps

While it might be tempting to take an afternoon snooze, especially if you’re dealing with jet lag, I recommend against this. Avoiding daytime naps will help you feel more tired at night in order to fall asleep more easily. If you’re newly arrived at your destination, this can also help you get on the local schedule after traveling across multiple time zones.

Get Plenty of Exercise During the Day

Another way to help you sleep better is to get plenty of exercise during the day as experts say this can improve sleep.4 If you’re out and about exploring all day long, you’ll probably get in plenty of exercise through walking. However, if your trip is more sedentary, look for opportunities to get in a workout, such as jogging or getting a temporary pass at a local gym, and of course, don’t forget to pack good shoes and workout clothes.

For More Information: Exercise and Sleep

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations

At the end of the day, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Staying in hostels is an amazing travel experience, but no matter how much you set yourself up for success by implementing these tips, you have to still keep in mind that you’re sharing a room with other people so things won’t always be perfect.

Over-stressing won’t make your situation any better. In the event you still have trouble sleeping, you can also try asking the front desk staff if you can switch rooms.

What to Wear to Sleep in a Hostel

Of course, you’ll need to bring some pajamas when you stay in a hostel, and it’s helpful to be as comfortable as possible when trying to sleep in a new space. Sharing a room with others, especially during warmer months, can mean extra heat in the room. To help you stay cool and sleep better, bring along comfortable pajamas made of breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen.

Other Considerations When Staying in a Hostel

  • Be courteous during quiet hours – Just as you don’t want others disturbing your sleep, it’s important to be courteous yourself. If you get in late or have to get up extra early, try your best to be quiet during this time to respect your fellow roommates.
  • Keep your alarm close – More than likely, you’ll have to use your phone alarm at some point during your trip. To help ensure your alarm doesn’t go off for too long, try to sleep with your phone nearby so that you can easily reach over to turn it off when it’s time to wake up.
  • Don’t hit snooze – Another tip for your alarm is to not hit the snooze button. Hitting the snooze button will cause your alarm to repeatedly go off and likely won’t win you over with the other people staying there.

FAQs About Sleeping in a Hostel

Is sleeping in a hostel safe?

Yes, in general, it is safe to sleep in a hostel. Most hostels have secured entry for both the building and the individual rooms. That being said, it’s good to confirm before you book that the hostel is secured.

Another tip is to make sure your hostel provides lockers for you to store your belongings in the room with you. Additionally, you usually have the option to select an all-female or all-male room during the booking process, which is important for some travelers to feel safer.

You should also research the neighborhood your hostel is in so that you can be sure you’re in a safe part of town.

Are hostels hard to sleep in?

Hostels can be hard to sleep in, but that’s not always the case. The best thing you can do is set yourself up for success by incorporating practices to help you sleep better, such as good sleep hygiene and wearing products like ear plugs, eye masks, and breathable pajamas. You should also try to avoid party hostels, which are generally more rowdy and can make it harder for sleeping.

How can I make my hostel bed more comfortable?

First, look for a hostel that provides privacy curtains for each bunk to help you feel secure and keep light out. Most hostels provide linens and pillows, but if you think you’d be more comfortable with a blanket from home, for example, it might be worth it to bring something like that along. Another tip for making your hostel bed more comfortable is to wear breathable pajamas that can keep you from overheating, which would otherwise make it more challenging to fall asleep.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach
  1. Blume, Christine., Garbazza, Corrado., Spitschan, Manuel. “Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood”. Somnologie. 2019.
  2. Watson MD, Nathaniel F., et. al. “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society”. National Library of Medicine. 2015.
  3. “Blue light has a dark side”. Harvard Health. 2020.
  4. “Exercising for Better Sleep”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed June 19, 2023.