What to pack to help you sleep on overnight trains, from someone who has spent 120 hours on them

what to pack to help you sleep on overnight trains, from someone who has spent 120 hours on them

Business Insider’s reporter has a lot of experience sleeping on overnight trains. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

  • I’ve spent 120 hours on six overnight train rides in the US and Europe. 
  • Sleeping on trains can be challenging, but I’ve found that packing earplugs helps with the noise.
  • I also pack a weighted sleep mask to block light and feel more at home. 

Over the last two years, I’ve spent 120 hours on six sleeper trains, from Amtrak rides along the East Coast to overnight trains in Europe.

On every ride — whether I’m in a shared or private accommodation — the hardest part is falling asleep.

There’s the sound of the train speeding over the railroad, the footsteps of other passengers, and the slivers of light that occasionally poke through the curtain of my cabin. And, of course, there’s the shakiness of the train.

If you’re new to overnight trains, it can be tough to get used to, but I’ve found that a couple of packing essentials can help me fall — and stay — asleep.

what to pack to help you sleep on overnight trains, from someone who has spent 120 hours on them

The author travels from Italy to Austria in a private cabin on an overnight train. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Always bring earplugs

It might sound obvious but a pair of earplugs is a necessity, as I realized after hardly sleeping on my first overnight train ride.

I couldn’t get used to the constant hum and vibration of the moving train. And I could hear every footstep of passersby in my cabin.

what to pack to help you sleep on overnight trains, from someone who has spent 120 hours on them

A pair of earplugs is provided by the overnight train inside the author’s cabin. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Now, I pack earplugs every time I travel by train, although some companies like Nightjet provide earplugs for overnight routes, along with an array of items for guests in private cabins, such as slippers, snacks, and washcloths.

Since the earplugs tune out most sounds, creating a more relaxing environment for sleep, I set my alarm on my phone to vibrate rapidly. This always wakes me up in time for my stop.

I’m not particular when it comes to the type of earplugs I pack, and have used both provided ones and my own that I pick up from the drugstore for a few dollars.

Don’t forget a sleep mask

On my most recent train journey, I packed a sleep mask for the first time because although cabin windows have curtains, I’ve found that light often comes through them when the train stops at or passes by platforms with street lamps.

I didn’t just pack any sleep mask; I packed my NodPod weighted sleep mask.

The $34 mask is filled with beads, and, similar to a weighted blanket, it calms me. I use the NodPod every night at home to block out light, so wearing it during my travels almost made me feel like I was in my own bed.

what to pack to help you sleep on overnight trains, from someone who has spent 120 hours on them

The author uses her NodPod sleep mask on an overnight train in Europe. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The NodPod paired with earplugs helped me get the best sleep I’ve ever had on an overnight train. It didn’t hurt that I was traveling on a luxury train with comfortable bedding, but I’ll still never ride the rails without them again.

And I’d recommend these not only for trains, but for your other travels as well — especially if you’re like me and have a hard time sleeping on planes and cruises.

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