Upon arrival at their destination, many travelers find when they’re ready for a good night’s rest, their hotel is not the easiest to get to sleep — and then stay asleep. Poor beds, uncomfortable linens, thin walls, street noise and light, poor heating and air conditioning systems, and pigging out on food and drink shortly before bedtime are the enemy of a restful sleep needed for the next day’s work or touring adventure.
A number of years ago, my wife and I were traveling with my parents to celebrate their anniversary. My mom decided we should stay in the newly renovated hotel in which they had enjoyed their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the hotel only brought its standards up to the 1960s.
The rooms had window air conditioners with those cheap plastic wings closing the sides from the heat outside, thin window shades, limp pillows that my parents likely used when there last and no sound insulation between the walls.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that no matter where we are in the world, it’s important to create the best sleep environment possible. It was even possible to make the room we were in while celebrating with my parents adequate for a night, once we changed to a room with a working window air conditioner, got extra pillow, more towels and used our own eye masks and ear plugs.
Here are my top 12 tips to create a good hotel room sleep environment:
1. Before making your reservation appraise your hotel via Internet review sites such as Trip Advisor to be sure the hotel will meet your needs. Look for what people say about noise in the rooms, bed and linen quality, maintenance problems, etc.
2. When making your reservation specify a quiet room away from vending and ice machines, elevators and the housekeeping room. Choose a floor away from the business center, banquet rooms, restaurants and bars. If you want to sleep in during your stay, don’t reserve a room with a pool view. If you’re not a smoker, make sure you reserve a non-smoking room.
3. Some travelers should pack some items from home such as your own pillow and other items. I have a friend who always brings his own herbal tea for a cup before retiring for the night. If you have a nighttime ritual, bring what’s necessary to duplicate it to help you get to sleep.
4. Bring your own travel alarm clock. Sometimes hotel room alarm clocks have settings which aren’t obvious and go off in the middle of the night.
5. Bring earplugs or a noise canceling headset. Some excess, irritating or strange noises can’t be eliminated immediately otherwise. I have a white noise app on my smartphone which can blot out the noise from dripping faucets and from other rooms.
6. Bring large metal binder clips to keep your drapes closed if they don’t lay properly and have an adequate overlap. Consider bringing an eye shade if the drapes and/or shade are too translucent.
7. Consider bringing a book or entertainment on a tablet if reading or watching television is part of your sleep ritual at home to duplicate it. Don’t depend on decent reading material or TV at your hotel. I have books to read and movies to watch on my iPad when I travel.
8. When you get to your room, check it out thoroughly and if it isn’t satisfactory, don’t hesitate to tell the front desk to move you to another room. Many only check to make sure the television works. That’s not good enough. Check everything before accepting the room. Make sure you don’t have drippy faucets or a toilet which keeps running. Make sure you have a working room thermostat to set the temperature of the room yourself and that the HVAC works. Make sure the linens and pillows are satisfactory. If you need additional pillows, a different type of pillow or towels, have them sent to your room. Make sure the room is clean and that the windows don’t have a bad draft coming through them.
9. Don’t eat too much, or consume alcoholic or caffeinated beverages shortly before bedtime as that can keep you awake for quite some time.
10. In winter, consider turning on your shower for a while to raise the humidity in your room. Many hotel heating systems produce dry, uncomfortable heat.
11. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign for your room to keep hotel staff away from your room until you’re ready for them. It’s amazing how many travelers forget this simple action and are awakened too early in the morning.
12. Don’t wait to report noise in the room next door. It’s not going to get better on its own.