Trying to get to sleep in a hotel room can be a real struggle. Not only do you have to deal with a new bed, linens and pillows, there are noisy neighbors, thin curtains, road noise and dozens of other distractions all seemingly designed to keep you tossing and turning at 3 am.
Here are five ways to get a much better night's sleep in any hotel room, without spending much or anything at all.
Use a White Noise Machine, App, or Website
When it comes to sleep, not all noises are created equal. Sudden loud sounds will almost certainly wake you up, but quiet, consistent ones can actually help you drift off (and stay asleep). The whir of desk or extractor fans can be enough for some people, but for more certainty, consider a white noise generator.
Wind, rain, waves, heartbeats, static – whatever the sound, it's much more relaxing than the TV show in the next room. Look for a machine that's easily portable, can be set to play for a set length or time or all night, and runs on batteries or USB in case there isn't a spare power socket nearby. The LectroFan fits the bill nicely and costs around $55.
For cheaper or free alternatives, consider searching the App or Play stores for a smartphone app, or even just turning off the screen on your laptop while streaming white noise from a website like SimplyNoise.
Set Your Own Alarm
It might seem counter-intuitive to mention alarms when talking about sleep aids, but for me at least, this tip really helps. If you need to set the alarm for an early-morning departure, you should never rely on the hotel's alarm clock or wake-up call as your only option.
Never quite sure whether the clock is set correctly or the phone will ring, you may find yourself waking up continually throughout the night, worried you've overslept.
Instead, set the same phone alarm you use every day – you know how it works, and that it will go off when you need it to. By all means, set the alarm clock and wake-up call as backups, but don't rely solely on them.
Earplugs and Eye Mask
Cheap, simple and effective, an eye mask and earplugs really should be part of every traveler's survival kit. If you haven't managed to pick up a free eye mask on an overnight flight already, they're easy to find for under $10. Look for ones made from a soft fabric, with two reasonably thick elastic straps to keep the mask secure without pinching.
Earplugs, too, cost very little and can easily make the difference between a full night's sleep and none at all – throw a few pairs in your carry-on. Silicone or wax plugs tend to be more comfortable and stay inside your ear more easily, while foam versions can be used more than once or twice before needing replacing.
If you prefer to listen to music or the radio when falling asleep, consider the SleepPhones instead. It's a fleece headband with built-in, cushioned speakers that let you lie on them without discomfort. You won't disturb your neighbors (or anybody else in the room), and the band can also be used as an eye mask if necessary. Check out the full review here.
Travel-Sized Blackout Curtains
Finally, if you don't like eye masks or have children in your room who can't really wear them, consider packing these temporary blackout curtains instead. Attaching to windows via a static charge, the film can be taken up and down each day in a few seconds. They don't leave a residue and last 6-8 weeks.
A roll of ten sheets costs $65 and weighs around a pound, but you don't need to take the whole thing with you on your trip – two or three folded sheets in your suitcase are enough to keep things nice and dark in most hotel rooms.