I am a light sleeper. I travel a lot, for both business and pleasure. These two realities often conflict, but, over the years, I have learned how to minimize the conflict with a simple and inexpensive solution: earplugs. Although I routinely request a room as far away as possible from the elevator and ice machine when I check into a hotel, I still wear earplugs while sleeping. Earplugs are certainly not the most comfortable things to place inside one’s ears, however, I prefer a good night’s sleep over just about anything else. I wear earplugs to mute noise on occasions other than sleeping in a hotel, including on long, cross continental flights; when I have early rising house guests who make noise before I am ready to wake up; and if I am sleeping during the daytime. I also have a wonderful white noise machine that is a helpful supplement to earplugs in particularly noisy environments (such as a hotel where Beatles music was played all night long, and into the early morning hours, during International Beatles Week in Liverpool). I have heard many people complain about how they couldn’t sleep because their hotel room was too noisy, or because they heard street noises throughout the night, or because the garbage dumpster was outside their hotel room’s window. Upon hearing their complaints, I inquire, “Have you ever considered wearing earplugs when you sleep?” then, invariably, I wait for their blank stare. Some people have whined to me that earplugs are uncomfortable, while others say they can’t wear them out of fear they might miss something (like what, the sound of a TV blaring in the room next door?). I respond, in as kindly a tone as I can muster, “Well, I would rather put up with a little discomfort in my ears and get a good night’s sleep than stare at the ceiling all night, listening to every ambulance siren that passes, but that’s just how I am.” Sleep well!
Earplugs are but one of many travel tricks learned by years of being a road warrior. Not that you can’t use them at home as well; Melissa can, and often does, wear them for the rare occasions when sleeping late is an option. On the road though, with so many strange and unfamiliar variables at play, earplugs often make the difference in sleeping, and relatedly, being alert the next day, or not. Many hotels have figured this out, probably via guest surveys and focus groups, as a few hotel chains provide them in the guest rooms. I also see foam earplugs for sale in airports or hotel gift shops, so they must be in demand. Inserting them correctly is important to both comfort and effectiveness, but they make a difference. I’m a bit paranoid and don’t like not being able to hear warning clues, such as someone entering a room. (Triple check that the door is locked.) And, I’m here to tell you earplugs DO NOT drown out a fire alarm. You’ll hear that! There are many other road warrior tricks out there. And many are indications of the need to be sharp and on your toes when working (or on vacation) – something that requires humans to sleep. No, you often won’t sleep as well as you do at home, but by employing some of these little tips, one can minimize the stresses of travel. Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones, etc., on a airplane are another stress reducer. You might still hear the screaming child across the aisle, but it will at a level that is much more tolerable than without masking unpleasant noises.