Anyone who’s been to New York City will know that it could not possibly be described as quiet.
I handed our Airbnb guests a packet of earplugs in case the noises of New York City were too loud.
“We shouldn’t need them – we can sleep through anything!” was their reply.
Oh, how I envy the people that can do this.
I’m regularly awoken by sirens, car horns, crazy/drunk people yelling in the streets, or the guy upstairs thumping about in his apartment at stupid hours of the night. The city that never sleeps is quite an accurate description of New York City.
But I often get bothered by noise when I travel, too. While everyone else seems to comfortably ignore people partying in hostels, children screaming on planes, or the sound of Drake pumping through the earphones of someone on a long bus ride… I sit there fuming because it irritates me.
I’ve known for a long while that I struggle to sleep through noise, so I’ve been experimenting with ways to block it out. It depends on the situation, but there’s usually one or two things we can do. Here’s 4 foolproof ways that I’ve found to block out noise and get sleep.
1. Use ear plugs
Ear plugs are my number one weapon for blocking out sounds. If I’m trying to sleep anywhere that has even the slightest bit of noise, I’ll pop in some earplugs which will muffle or eliminate the disturbance.
The only problem I have with earplugs is that they irritate the inside of my ears if I use them for more than a few nights in a row, so I have to take a break. When this happens, I’ll try and use one of the following options instead.
2. Play white noise
White noise is nearly as good as using ear plugs. Instead of blocking out the noise, the steady frequency of white noise makes it less obvious. I find this is great for traffic or other distant noises.
I downloaded a white noise app on my smartphone which I turn on right before I go to sleep, and then I keep my phone fairly close to my head. After a few seconds, I forget that there’s white noise playing and it just blends into my surroundings.
For this to work, my phone has to be plugged in to power otherwise it runs out of battery overnight. Also keep in mind this option might not be so good for hostel dorms (unless you’re perfectly ok with pissing off everyone else in the room).
3. Utilise blankets/towels
Noise often gets through gaps in windows and the cracks between doors and the floor. To muffle it, you can use a rolled up blanket or towel to cover the gap.
This also can work on thin window panes that are letting in noise from outside. I placed a thick blanket over the bedroom window of our New York apartment when there was some night-time road work going on a few weeks ago and it made a huge difference to muffling the noise.
4. Move somewhere else
When I stayed in a hostel in Krakow, a group of young travellers returned to our dorm in the middle of the night. Two of them were a couple, who started having a domestic in the room even when it was obvious that we were trying to sleep in there, and then one of the guys woke up at 5am and decided to ask his mate how his night was even though the guy was passed out drunk and non-responsive.
The next morning, I went straight to the front desk and asked if they had any other rooms available, then paid an extra $10 per night to upgrade to a private room. It just wasn’t worth me having the same trouble with these idiots again.
Sometimes you won’t have the option to change rooms like I did, but there’s a few other things you might be able to do. Try moving to a different bed if you’re in a hostel dorm – you’d be surprised at what an extra few feet of distance will do to the noise level. You could also try moving seats if you’re on a bus/plane/train.
5. Listen to music
If all of these don’t work, then you can try popping in some noise cancelling headphones and playing some music to block out the noise. The steady beats of your favourite band will be much more pleasant than the sound of some guy snoring.