Sleep tips for your next hotel stay

Terry Cralle headshot

By Terry Cralle (

Whether you’re headed to Interzum Cologne or planning a family vacation, staying in a sleep-friendly hotel is imperative if you are to feel your best and be your best while traveling. Choosing a hotel that respects your need for sleep and takes your sleep seriously is the first step.

When booking a hotel, ask for a room away from the elevators, ice machines, bar and restaurant, and check to see if the hotel is undergoing renovation or construction. Use your “Do Not Disturb” sign and have the front desk hold incoming calls while you sleep. If you are not with your family, request a floor without babies or small children. And, above all, make sure the alarm clock in the room isn’t already set to go off when you don’t want it to.

Some hotels provide sleep amenities–ear plugs, sleep masks, aromatherapy, linen spray, black out curtains, night lights, bedtime snacks and sound machines. These can be effective in providing a good night’s sleep. Be sure your room has drape clips to keep out light.

If you are a light sleeper, white noise can go a long way to ensure sound sleep. If you don’t have a phone app or sound machine, simply switch the hotel room’s thermostat fan to the on position, from auto, or keep the bathroom’s ventilation fan on while you sleep. This also serves to help minimize the on/off noises of the room’s heating and air-conditioning system.

Mattresses, Pillows, and Bedding
If your hotel mattress is unacceptably uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to ask for a new one; most hotels will be willing to change your room. Don’t suffer with pillows that will cause you to wake up with a stiff neck, either–pillow menus are offered in many hotels. You may also want to consider a travel pillow for the plane as well as for sleeping in a hotel bed.

If you find yourself sleeping better on the road than you do at home, it’s time to re-evaluate your mattress as well as your home sleep environment and invest in an upgrade. Sleeping on a mattress in a hotel is quite an effective means of mattress selection.

Are You a Clock Watcher?
For those who stress all night, worrying about waking up on time and not oversleeping in an unfamiliar environment, here are a few tips:

  • First and foremost, avoid sleep deprivation to avoid oversleeping. Oversleeping is less likely to happen to a well-rested person who is getting a sufficient amount of sleep on a daily basis.
  • To this end, make sure your hotel alarm clock is set correctly. Some are notoriously complicated to set, and it sometimes is easier to unplug it, if you have another reliable option for an alarm clock—most cell phones have this capability, or bring your own familiar alarm clock from home. Request a wakeup call from the front desk for extra peace of mind.
  • Avoid watching the clock all night, as that will only increase your anxiety. If the clock faces out of sight, you will not be tempted to look at it.
  • Realize that waking up in the middle of the night is common. You’re more likely to return to sleep if the room is dark and quiet. If you need to get out of bed, say to use the rest room, avoid turning on very bright lights that are usually found in the hotel bathrooms. Instead, use a nightlight if one is provided, a hallway light (they are usually dimmer), or even the power light on your cell phone.
  • Avoid using the snooze features on your alarm clock or phone—they only serve to fragment what little extra sleep you’re getting. By using these features and going back to sleep, you increase the risk of entering a new sleep cycle that you won’t be able to finish, resulting in grogginess.

Better Sleep Council spokesperson Terry Cralle is a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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