Sleep better in hotels with these 10 tips

Trying to sleep when you travel is a challenge – sure, some people may be born with the ability to sleep anywhere, but others (myself included) need a little more comfort to grab a good night’s sleep. In this list, you’ll find ten tried and tested tips for getting a better nights sleep in a hotel room.

Best of all – most of these tips don’t involve spending (too) much. So, check out these ten tips, and with a bit of luck, your next hotel stay will be a more relaxing experience!
Get rid of distractions

You don’t have to be insane to lose sleep over little things like noises or blinking lights – anything that is out of the ordinary can become a major distraction.

My personal pet peeve is poorly closing drapes – so I travel with a drape clip (a chip clip also works fine). Before I go to bed, I’ll close the drapes, and clip them shut so I don’t get an early wake up call from the sun coming through any gaps. Call me crazy, but I prefer that extra hour of sleep in the morning.

Fan / Air Conditioning for white noise

This is a personal favorite of mine – and one I don’t mind sharing! If you need a little white noise to fall asleep, set the “fan” switch on the thermostat to “on” instead of auto. This way the fan will provide background/white noise all night long – and it won’t sound as loud when the heat/ac turns on in the middle of the night.

Pick a hotel with a better mattress

Hotels know when they have a good mattress – and they’ll market the heck out of it. Everyone knows the Westin has Heavenly Beds, and that Hyatt offers the “Grand Bed”. This kind of marketing isn’t just for show – a good hotel bed is worth a fortune. If a good night’s sleep means a lot to you, find a hotel that has upgraded its beds – the extra couple of bucks will be well worth it.

Your own alarm clock

This one really only benefits you in the morning – but if you’ve ever been woken in the middle of the night by the hotel alarm clock, you’ll appreciate staying in control of your own wake-up time.

Any time I arrive in a hotel room, the first thing I do is check the alarm clock, and turn off any previously set times. With your own alarm clock, you don’t have to worry about learning how to set it, and you won’t have to worry about missing your wake-up call if you set it incorrectly. My personal favorite is the Moshi voice controlled alarm clock – I can set the alarm on this thing using spoken commands. Added bonus – it has soothing alarm sounds instead of the horrible buzzers on most cheap hotel clocks.

Stick to your usual schedule

Just because you are “on the road” does not mean you need to stay up later than usual. If you have a routine at home, use it on the road as well. The closer things feel to your usual routine, the easier it’ll be to fall asleep. Do you watch the Daily Show before sleepy time? Do it in your hotel room. If you can’t sleep without a nice cup of tea, call room service and splurge on that $8 cup of tea – anything that helps you fall asleep is worth a couple of bucks.

Create the perfect climate

A really good bed and comfortable linens won’t help you sleep well if the room is as dry as the Sahara. If you suffer from low humidity in the room, you could invest in a travel humidifier (about $50), or you could be creative and place some damp towels around the room in the hope that they help. Running a hot shower with the door open right before sleeping can also help.

Traveling by road? Bring your own pillow and blankets

If you are traveling by road (or just have plenty of open room in your luggage), you could consider bringing your own pillow and/or blankets. I’ve done this when I’m traveling to a hotel I know suffers from poor pillows. It may add a couple more pounds to my baggage, but I’ll gladly take that if it means a great night’s sleep.

Pick the right room

A quiet room starts when you check in. Ask for a room at the end of a hallway, away from elevators and on a high floor. Front desk staff usually know their own room layout quite well, and a smile along with a polite request will often get the best tips on a quiet room.

Improve the bed through housekeeping

Dislike the pillows? Prefer some more sheets? This is exactly why hotel phones have a housekeeping button. Unless your request is for a second mattress or someone to sing a lullaby, the housekeeping department will usually be able to help with most requests. A call for a synthetic pillow, or a few more down pillows won’t be a problem, and can usually be arranged any time of day.

White noise generator

Do you travel with a smartphone? Check for mobile versions of white noise/sleep noise generators. On my Android powered phone, I use “Sleepy Time”, an app with almost 100 different noises. I can set a sleep timer, turn the noise on, and drift off to a babbling brook, washing machine or even city noises. The apps are usually priced around $3.

Of course, you can still pop into your local Brookstone and pick up one of their popular devices – but why invest more when you can turn your phone into what you need.

Need help getting some sleep on a plane?

Check out these tips from airplane sleep expert Mike Barish!

10 things I hate about staying at a hotel

What can cost upwards of $250 per night, has poor climate control and a bad bed? Of course, I’m talking about the hotel. This home away from home has been my residence on the road for quite a decent chunk of my traveling life, but I honestly can’t remember ever having spent a night in a hotel that beat the comfort of my own home.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, I really appreciate the hard work most of the hotel staff put into keeping me happy, and there is nothing like the sight of a familiar hotel chain name when you are far away from home in a country you have never been to.

No amount of pampering or luxury can seemingly replace the luxury of your own bedroom. So, here are the 10 things I hate the most about staying at a hotel:

The bed

They say there is no place like home. And nowhere is that more the case than in a hotel bed. I’ve slept in hundreds of hotels, and not once did I ever find a bed that made me feel at home. Sure, I’ve stumbled into my room drunk, and passed out in the bed, but that doesn’t count.

I’m not sure whether it is because the mattress has been used by too many people, or just the subconscious thought of sleeping on poorly washed sheets.

The minibar

The minibar itself is a fine amenity. In the past I’ve been suckered into spending $6 for a diet coke, and did not care one bit. But the newfangled automated minibar with sensors really annoys me. Sometimes I just want to open the minibar to check out the assortment of beverages, and would love to do so without an evil computer instantly thinking I robbed the place of all their overpriced liquor.

I’d also like to ask hotels to stop stocking the minibar with too many obscure products. Sometimes a guest just wants a damn Snickers bar, and is not in the mood for a $12 organic dried peach and carrot whey protein energy bar.

Internet connectivity

There is something strange going on in the world of hotel Internet connections. I can stay at a cheap and smelly Holiday Inn, and get free Internet access, but the $200/night Hilton still thinks it’s cool to charge me $19.95 for 24 hours of online access. Apparently the minds in marketing have concluded that anyone who can afford an expensive hotel will be willing to spend even more.

Thankfully many hotels are allowing me to get online using my Boingo account, but Internet access is clearly still a major money maker for some places.

The worst offenders can be found in Europe, where it is perfectly normal to run into a hotel demanding $35 a night for access to the web. Not only is the price a major issue, I still run into hotels where the speed can only be described as “molasses crawling uphill in the winter”.

The Bathroom

Note to hotel cleaning crews: clean my bathroom. I mean really, how hard is it to make sure all the mold and pubic hair is washed out of the shower before you declare my room “spotless”?

I can often tell how good a hotel is by taking a 5 second glance at their bathrooms. More often than not, a hotel will consider a bathroom “upgraded” by merely replacing the shower nozzle with a new model.

And while I am on the topic of the shower; water pressure is another of my pet peeves. Hotels seem incapable of providing the right water pressure. I either find a shower that can shoot the tiles off the wall, or one that barely has enough pressure to rinse me clean.

The TV

The hotel TV is supposed to entertain you. But when you are faced with nothing but a selection of local channels and the occasional 24 hour news source, it is hard to get in bed with the remote and relax.

Thankfully more and more hotels are upgrading to flat panel TV’s and a wider assortment of channels, but many hotels still have a fugly wood grain TV with 9 channels of nothing, and a sticky remote.

There are still hotels out there where they offer Nintendo 64 games for a mere $19.95 a day. Even the most bored of kids won’t be able to entertain themselves for long with one of those 11 year old consoles.

The alarm clock

There are 2 things I hate about the hotel alarm clock; it is often impossible to program and there is always someone who sets the alarm for 4:30 am in the hope that I forget to turn it off before going to bed.

Thankfully I’m finding more and more hotels that upgraded their alarm clock to a more pleasant unit, and some have even started adding those nice iPod friendly alarm clock (just don’t forget to bring your iPod home when you leave!).

The hotel restaurant

If I arrive at my hotel after a long flight, I’ll often end up having to eat at the hotel restaurant at least once. Hotel restaurants are part of a global conspiracy to spread horrible food. Most of them have the same menu, with the same boring dishes.

It takes a lot of effort to make a burger taste bad, but the hotel restaurants have it down to an art. Of course, the only thing worse than a bad hotel restaurant, is having that same bad food delivered to your room for twice the price.

The thermostat

The hotel thermostat is evil. Inside the innocent looking device is a mind that is out to get you. You will never, ever manage to get the temperature in your room set to what you want. When you arrive, it’ll be in the 80’s. When you turn it down a little and leave, you’ll get back to a room in the mid 40’s. Just once, I wish a hotel would put a thermostat on the wall that does not force me to wake up every 4 hours to change its setting.

Sneaky hotel fees

Resort fee, energy recovery fee, towel fee, charitable contribution fee.

The list goes on and on, and each year hotels find new ways to add a couple of bucks to my bill. Of course, some of these fee’s and taxes are imposed upon the hotel by the local government, but the hotels are not without blame here either. The worst offender I ran into, was an airport hotel in Europe where the additional fee’s and taxes were more than the room rate.

The boutique hotel phenomenon

In the past, a hotel with tiny cramped rooms would be called a bad hotel. Nowadays it is called “a boutique hotel”.

The smaller the room, the more bohemian it apparently is. I’ve stayed in a $240/night hotel where there was not enough room to squeeze past the dresser and the bed. But these hotels justify their existence by adding mood lighting, dark wallpaper and filling the bar area with hip people.

Needless to say I am not a fan of the boutique hotel, but I’m man enough to admit that I might just not be hip enough to fit in.

Click the images below to learn about some of the weirdest hotels anywhere: