I’ve previously written about my accidental stay in a Barcelona party hostel. In sum: I’m the queen of introverts, the Darcy of parties, and on my first visit to a hostel I wound up in a rumpus party center.
But I was more interested in touring during the day than living it up at night. Besides, true to my high school nickname of “The Sleep Tsar,” I value sleep. A lot.
So these are the steps I took to be sure I got my fair share of winks — even with intoxicated students stumbling in and out at all hours.
1. Dress for Battle
Anyone who’s tried to sleep in public knows that the clothes you wear can make or break a snooze. First, you want to start out with your standard sleep fare: Comfy clothes.
Because you’ll be traveling, I recommend yoga or workout pants instead of PJ bottoms (that way you save a little packing space, in case you need to wear them during the day as well). These also mean that if you need to make a quick exit from the room (say, to go get breakfast before the partiers are up), you save yourself having to do much by the way of getting dressed. To the girls in the crowd: Keep your bra under your pillow, pull it on beneath your shirt, and you’re ready to hit the road if need be!
You’ll also be wanting a handy hoodie. Use this to pull down over your head and get extra respite from the lights that will inevitably be turned on and off throughout the night. A dark wash works best, but keep in mind that you probably won’t have control of the AC in the room (if the hostel even has AC).
I made the mistake of taking a thick, winter hoodie with me to the hostel in Barcelona, and that complicated sleeping measures. Nowadays I carry a dark red hoodie that’s only a little bit thicker than a t-shirt. (It also takes up way less room in my suitcase than my heavy one!)
Last, I highly recommend investing in a good face mask. Not the polyester horror they give you on the airlines. Something with halfway decent fabric and a good band, so it will stay (mostly) on your head on all night. There are some amazing ones with gel inserts that help relax your travel-wearied eyes. Others have extra flabs to block out light more completely.
These will complete what the hoodie cannot as far as light protection. If you’re traveling anywhere in the north during the summertime, a face mask is a great investment regardless of where you’re staying, because the sun’s going to rise around 5AM (or earlier).
2. Accessorize With Sound
If you can stand earplugs, invest in some before you go. But I’ve always found earplugs both uncomfortable and not terribly effective at blocking out all sound.
If you like listening to music while you’re asleep, the solution is easy. Simply prep your iPod with your favorite songs and get snoozing.
But if you’re a noise diva like me who can’t sleep if there’s the whisper of words, you’re still in luck.
Back in college, when I had a roommate who enjoyed playing the TV and the radio through the night, I learned the art of sleeping with white noise on my iPod. Simply download a track you enjoy, put your earphones in, and have at it. There are also plenty of white noise apps for your phone — just be sure they’ll work offline so you don’t burn data or get stuck when you don’t have an internet connection.
You might need time to get adjusted to any of these methods. For instance, my white noise track fades in and out every hour when the track ends, and for a while I was waking up every hour when the sound stopped. Take a few evenings before your trip to practice sleeping with these new devices.
3. Arm Yourself with Meds
Occasionally, it can be helpful to use an outside resource to find sleep in a party hostel. Advil PM or others like it can be a huge relief after a long day of travel. I personally am a fan of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps your body sleep. This coupled with magnesium (a vitamin that will help your aching muscles) can do wonders.
If you need something more serious, there are other jet lag drug options. You probably want to avoid the heavy duty drugs that have warnings like “participants didn’t remember what they did while on it,” because you’ll want your senses around you in a hostel. However, sometimes just a nudge can help you get past the noise and light and annoyance to fall asleep.
(But as with all medication, use responsibly and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. You know, the standard end-of-a-medical-commercial stuff.)