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Foolproof ways to block out noise and get sleep

Foolproof ways to block out noise and get sleep

Anyone who’s been to New York City will know that it’s the opposite of quiet.

We recently had some Airbnb guests staying at our Manhattan apartment. I handed them a packet of earplugs in case the noises of the city were too loud during the night.

“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 a few foolproof ways that I’ve found to block out noise and get sleep.


Earplugs for blocking out noise
My favourite Mack’s brand earplugs

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 sometimes 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

The steady frequency of white noise makes other sounds less obvious. I find this is option great for traffic or other distant noises.

You can use a fan to create white noise in your bedroom, or if you’re travelling, downloaded a white noise app for your smartphone. I turn on the white noise right before I go to sleep, and after a few seconds I forget that it’s even there. It just blends into my surroundings.

For the smartphone white noise to work, your phone will probably have to be plugged in to power otherwise it may run out of battery overnight. Also keep in mind this option might not be so good for hostel dorms as others will be able to hear it, too.

Towel blocking gaps under door to block out noise
Towel covering window to block out noise
Top: Towel blocking gaps under door / Bottom: Towel covering window

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 and it made a huge difference to muffling the construction racket.

The bed in our Manhattan apartment
The bedroom in our Manhattan fourth floor apartment

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 an argument 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. Use noise cancelling earphones

If all of these don’t work, then you can try popping in some noise cancelling earphones and play your own sounds to block out the noise. The steady beats of your favourite band, some ambient music, or a guided meditation will work to distract you from other noises that are happening in the room or elsewhere. I hope one of these methods works for you! Good luck!

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