How to get the best night’s sleep in a dorm room

Once you’ve been on the road for a few months you’ll be a master in the art of sleeping in a dorm room. However, if you’re new to backpacking and travelling you might benefit from a few hints and tips on how to get the best night’s sleep in a dorm room.

1. Choose your bed wisely – If you’re the first person in your room, choose your bed wisely. You want the one furthest from the door, and if your room has an en suite, furthest from the toilet too. This way you’ll avoid people disturbing you when they leave the room or go to the toilet in the night.

2. Face the right way – If you’re on the lower bed of a bunk bed (which is definitely the best choice), your feet should be at the end of the ladder. Why? Because when Shamus from Ireland stumbles in at 3am and slips off the ladder he’s less likely to kick you in the face.

3. Make yourself a cave – If you’re staying in the same hostel for a few nights or you really need a good night’s sleep, consider making yourself a cave. How do you do this? Easy. Get your towel and tuck it under the mattress of the bunk above allowing it to hang down. All of a sudden you’ve got a curtain that not only creates a dark little cave where it’s easier to sleep, but basically says “Do Not Disturb”.

4. Have ear plugs / earphones to hand – Every now and then you’ll come across a snorer or a moaner, so make sure you have your ear plugs / earphones to hand to drown any sound. I often put my earphones in straight away and fall asleep to music cutting out the middle man.

5. Don’t be afraid – If someone is snoring or moaning, don’t be afraid to say something. If you can hear it, so can everyone else. That also counts when people are having sex. Trust me, it’s better to say something than have to put up with it.

There is definitely an art to sleeping in a dorm room

6. Don’t be a dick – If you’re in a dorm room, it means you’re a backpacker or traveller (or whatever you want to call it). What this means is you’re all in this together, so don’t be a dick. When I say that, there’s some dorm room etiquette that you HAVE to follow:

  • If someone is trying to sleep, don’t talk loudly and certainly don’t turn your music on. Curfew time – around 10:30 / 11ish.
  • If you’re leaving super early in the morning (anything before 8am), don’t do what I’ve just mentioned. Also, if you need to repack your bag, do it outside the room. And no rustling!
  • Unless it’s an absolute emergency, don’t go for a shit in the middle of the night. Instead, use the main hostel toilets.

Basically, with dorm room etiquette it’s all about being a good person. All common sense really.

7. Hide your possessions under your pillow / mattress – Instead of getting stressed out and losing sleep with worry that someone’s going to come in and nick your stuff, hide all of your valuables (phone, passport, wallet, etc) in the furthest corner under your pillow or your mattress. That means if anyone is really intent on stealing your stuff they’ll have to lean over you, which probably isn’t the best idea.

Once you've been on the road for a while you'll quickly get into a routine of how to sleep in a dorm room

8. Get ready to crash out – If you know you’re going out for a big one, get everything you need ready for bed so when you come back you don’t need to rummage around to find your stuff. For guys this usually involves a toothbrush and toothpaste. I think for girls it involves other stuff too.

9. Use natural sleeping pills – If you’re really struggling to sleep in a dorm room use natural sleeping pills. Any good supermarket or pharmacy will have these, and they really do work. Alternatively, if you’re not one for natural sleeping pills, sling back a few beerios before you go to bed. That should do the trick.

So there you have it, some hints and tips on how to get the best night’s sleep sleeping in a dorm room.

What are your secrets of the trade? If you think you’re a master in the art of sleeping in a dorm room, let us know in the comments below; as ever we would love to hear from you!


Macca Sherifi is a presenter, photographer and videographer who has worked in the travel industry for the past six years. He has travelled to over 75 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh and worked in both China and Australia.

  • Sarah Alexandra George

    Hi, good read! We were staying in a dorm in Melbourne recently as we were there for 5 days on holiday, but our dorm experience was a nightmare! Most people there were working and everyone had different shifts so there were ALWAYS people sleeping in the room. As we’re nice people this meant that every morning and every evening we had to take our bags outside to rummage for clothes and always had to tiptoe around! Disaster!


    • Oh no! Such a shame to hear about your nightmare experience! I’ve had a fair few of those myself, especially when I was living in a working hostel; say goodbye to any normal sleep pattern!

      At lease you took your bags outside; that’s the good thing.

      This is a series I need to add too, but check out a couple of my hostel horror stories. They make very interesting reading!

  • Here ye, here ye. Every hostel should print this out and hang it in every room.
    It’s really shocking to me how inconsiderate other travellers can be. When I backpacked around Europe in 2001 and 2003, no one had a smartphone (or even a mobile phone!).
    Now, I encounter people watching movies well into the wee hours of the night, Facetiming, etc. — all things that are inconsiderate after 11pm or so. Leave the room! Also try to not get *so* drunk that you can’t make it into bed swiftly (or, god forbid, vomit everywhere!).

    • Thanks for commenting Jenne, and I’m really glad you liked the post!

      I always find it surprising how inconsiderate other travellers can be, especially when we all have so much in common, but that’s life I guess.

      I remember when I first started travelling I would never call people out if they were doing something wrong. These days, I am more than happy to tell someone to be quiet or to have more respect.

      Still, if more people followed these rules then I’d be happy!

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