How to Sleep in Hotels

How to Sleep in Hotels

I don't know about you, but when I travel I find it hard to sleep.

We’re going to share our exact method for hacking our hotel room for optimal sleep.

First of all, the beds can be uncomfortable.

The mattresses are either too stiff, too soft, or just plain gross. Don’t EVER lift up your sheets and look at what’s underneath. I’m just sayin’.

One time I got such a comfortable bed, and I was so tired from my kids waking me up at 530 every morning, that I was ready to sleep instantly when I laid down in the hotel bed.

But the freakin’ pillows!!   

Every single pillow propped my head up about a hundred feet off the bed. There was not ONE pillow that allowed me to sleep like at home.

My pillow at home is thin. I like having the natural curvature in my neck when I sleep.

The University of Utah and Harvard both warn against pillows that are too high, and yet that’s the most common thing I run into in hotel rooms.

Utah Study

Harvard Pillow Study

Another great resource is this post on everything you need to know about sleep positions by VitaMonk. You should really check it out.

Sleeping In

At home, it's almost always 530am when my kids wander into my bedroom and lets me know it's time to wake up. Then they jump on me.

My kids haven't learned to appreciate sleep the way I have. When they are awake, I should be awake. So the only time I get to sleep past 5:30 am is when I travel.

No matter how disciplined I am, I can't always get to bed at 9:30 pm. If I could, I would always get 8 hours of sleep. But 9:30 comes around so fast most nights. And I find I can do OK on 7 hours of sleep. Not great, but OK.

It’s the LIGHT

When I'm out of town on a business trip, which happens for over 100 days a year, my kids don't usually come with me.

 I finally get to sleep in. Till about 6 am. Which doesn't seem like much, but it makes a huge difference to me.

I get really upset when the hotel does something like stick a massively bright white LED light right outside my window. And then the shades never shut all the way, so the light keeps the room so bright I don't know why they even bother with any interior lighting. That light outside is keeping everything daylit just fine thank you. 

Then there are the bright LEDs on the smoke alarms, TV, cable box, thermostat, microwave and more. The room is so bright I don't know how anyone could sleep.

Remember our D.A.R.K. system for sleep.

First of all the bright light makes my body think it's daytime. Secondly, the light is almost always a blue or green light, which is the exact spectrum that disrupts melatonin at night and makes it harder to sleep and harder to get quality sleep.

Did I mention when I travel I like to get extra sleep?

Let’s Hack it

I had to learn how to hack my hotel room so I could get rid of all those sources of LEDs and get some proper sleep.

This video shows me hacking one of my recent hotel rooms for getting to sleep at night.



Some hotels let you set the room temperature. Many, however, as shown in this report, are disconnecting the thermostats, but they aren’t telling you. So you think they work, but they don’t. It’s their way of saving money. 

Even if they do work, the vents can often be filled with mold and bacteria and this is blown into your room with the incoming warmed or cooled air. Gross.

There’s one hotel I stay in every other week in Michigan. The bathroom always stinks like smoke. People like to go into their bathroom, turn on the vent fan and smoke. Apparently, the vent fan just blows the smoke into anyone’s bathroom that doesn’t have negative pressure (vent fan turned on). I have to keep my bathroom vent fan on continuously just to keep out the smoke. Yes, it’s a non-smoking hotel!

Even if you can mess with your room temperature, who knows how much fresh air is getting into the room or even the hotel. Carbon dioxide and VOCs both make us less productive and less smart. This Harvard study shows how fresh air can counteract both of these things. 


Carpet is just nasty. Some people call it a toxic waste dump. It really turns into hazardous waste in your home, collecting toxins, giving off toxins built into the materials used. From formaldehyde and phthalates to flame retardants and stain repellents, carpet is made with materials that we don’t want off gassing for years into our homes. But that’s exactly what they do. Please get rid of your carpet and go with hard surface flooring. In hotels, we can’t do anything about it.


Some hotels have paper thin walls. Others are nearly soundproof. Sometimes I get stuck near the elevator or ice machine, and if that happens, I’ll wake up many times during the night when the walls just don’t keep out the sound.

Get some 3M soft earplugs like these.


Black electrical tape


This stuff is optimal for covering up green lights on smoke detectors, LEDs on microwaves and glowing wall switches.


When you can’t stop the light from coming in under your door, a rolled up towel comes in real handy. Just push it all the way against the door and no more light.



Unplug all the alarm clocks, night lights and anything else that can be unplugged. Not only will you get rid of light, but you’ll reduce the EMF load in the room. Non-native EMF (electro-magnetic fields) do interact with our biology and have an unknown effect on us.

Put your phone into airplane mode and turn it over on the nightstand. Do not let the blinking clock light up your room. 

Pack a high quality sleep mask.  You can’t always block all the light, so a high quality sleep mask goes a long way to covering up that light in a way that should allow you to sleep. You really need to get something high quality. High-quality masks are more comfortable and you will actually use it for the night instead of throwing it halfway across the room from how uncomfortable it is.

Take out the clothes hangers from the closet that have the pants clip mechanism on the bottom. Use these to keep the curtains shut and stop outside light from leaking in.



If yours actually works, set it down to 60-68 degrees at night for optimal sleep. 


Whenever possible, open your windows, even in the winter. Getting some fresh air in the room overnight is critical. Indoor air has been shown by the US EPA to be 3-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. All that mold, toxic carpet and who knows what else is better left outside your body. Let the fresh air in!

Air Purifier

If you can get away with it, bring a portable air purifier and get it going right away.


I made a grounding strap that connects to my foot by buying a $2 wrist grounding strap off Amazon and splicing a metal end onto the end of it that fits into the grounding part of an outlet.


Grounding isn’t well studied yet. I know I feel a difference when I sleep and walk grounded outside (aka barefoot). Here are the few studies and articles that deal with grounding. I would say, it looks very convincing. We also know that grounding straps keep technicians grounded when working on hard drives and motherboards, so it’s a real thing. Do we fully understand the health benefits? Not yet.

Here are the studies I dug up on grounding

Grounding is an Essential element in human health

The neuromodulative role of earthing   

Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes

Earthing the human organism influences bioelectrical processes

Differences in Blood Urea and Creatinine Concentrations in Earthed and Unearthed Subjects during Cycling Exercise and Recovery

Grounding is supposed to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is supposed to be the cause of all diseases. Thus, ground and live forever.  

Barefoot walking on the earth makes you feel better!


Until we know more, it doesn’t hurt, and I perceive a real benefit from doing it. Everything from more vivid and lucid dreams to faster recovery after flying, to a better night’s sleep.

I used to bring my homemade grounding strap I made for about $3 with me everywhere. But now, I've learned that the electrical systems in many homes and hotels are not properly grounded or may have too much feedback and interference and grounding myself to the electrical system is probably not wise.  Instead I now just try to get outside barefoot for a few minutes in the morning and evening.

Ear Plugs

Whenever someone slams a door and wakes me up at 2 am or slams their girlfriend against the headboards in lust, I have a hard time getting back to sleep.

Earplugs make all that moot.

Put them in before you go to bed and you will find it much easier to sleep all night.


I wish I had a good hack for this one. When I drive, I just bring my own. But when I fly, I have not found a good solution yet. Any suggestions?

Here’s a link to Ben Greenfield’s hotel room hacking. He adds a few more devices that I don’t carry around with me, like a humidifier and an essential oil diffuser.


Here are my top tips for getting your best sleep ever while on the road.

1. Keep it Cool (60-68F). Open a window for fresh air (if you can) and set the thermostat lower at bedtime.
2. Wear Blue Blocking Glasses as soon as the sun sets, like these Swannies
3. These basic supplements help you fall asleep faster and provide needed nutrients many of us are deficient in Magnesium  (400-800mg of Citrate or Glycinate), CBD Oil
4. If you need to shut down an overactive brain what works for me is 100mg of the supplement 5-HTP  by itself or combined 0.3mg-3mg of Melatonin.
5. Get Grounded.
6. Follow our PrimalHacking 4 Step D.A.R.K. guide for getting to sleep no matter where you are.
7. This is hugely important. As soon after the sun rises, get outside, no matter the time of year, and get at least 15 minutes of sun in your eyes without glasses or sunglasses.

And here are our highly recommend minimal travel necessities for sleep:

  • Magnesium citrate
  • Melatonin
  • Blue blocking glasses
  • Grounding strap
  • Black electrical tape
  • Sleep Mask
  • Ear Plugs
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