Cake icon

We’re celebrating 10 years of Wanderu by giving away $10,000 in free travel!  See details ››

How to Get the Best Sleep on a Bus or Train

Table of Contents

You might think it takes some sort of sorcery to be able to get a good rest on public transport. But really, you just need to be let in on the sleep secrets. Whether you’re taking an overnight bus or just hoping to squeeze in a nap along the way, everything you need to know about how to sleep on a bus or train is in this article.

We spill the tea and fill you in on exactly where to sit to get the most restful sleep, handy tips, and the essentials we recommend packing in your bag.

Comfortable ways to sleep on a bus or train

The best way to sleep on a bus or train is to score a coveted window seat. Sitting by the window is a win-win situation. It means you can rest your head against the window to sleep, and you won’t be constantly interrupted by fellow passengers moving past you.

On buses, you ideally want a window seat in the middle of the bus. The front of the bus is typically too distracting, with passengers repeatedly getting on and off. You also want to avoid the back of the bus, as that’s, unfortunately, where you’ll feel every bump in the road.

If you happen to be traveling on a double-decker bus, here’s a hot tip: the front on the top level is actually an optimal spot to sleep, as you get more legroom, and there are usually curtains available to block out the light. You heard it here first.

On trains, the ultimate prize spot is a window in the quiet zone. If you can’t swing it, like buses, any ordinary window seat will do. You just want to avoid being in an area with heavy foot traffic, like near a door or the restrooms.

Another option is getting a (train) room for a night. Amtrak has roomette and bedroom options available on many routes across the country. They include seats during the day, beds at night, private restrooms, lounge access, and complimentary meals. Now that’s how you sleep on a train!

We know there is a lot of controversy about whether or not you should recline your seat on planes. But when talking about the best positions to sleep on a bus or train, reclining is the way to go. 💺 There’s a lot more room on buses and trains for passengers to comfortably recline their seats without disturbing the travelers behind them.

Handy tips for sleeping on a bus or train

Here are some insider tips for sleeping on a bus or train that will have you snoozing in no time:

For overnight trips, prepare that day. Exercise and stay busy to tire yourself out. It also helps to stick to your routine, so eat dinner before boarding if possible. We also recommend avoiding caffeine four to six hours before the trip. You can do it!

Keep your valuables nearby. You probably won’t be able to peacefully fall asleep if you’re worried about your valuables being stolen. So keep them nearby, like between your feet under the seat in front of you. If it makes you more comfortable, you could also bring a padlock to secure them in your bag.

Avoid alcohol. While you might want to hit up the food and drinks carriage on your train journey, alcohol can cause dehydration and headaches, which will inevitably disturb your sleep. Nobody wants that.

Silence your electronics. The aim of the game is for it to be as peaceful as possible, so you don’t want to be disturbed by your phone while you’re trying to sleep. Hit silence so you can snooze. 😴

Set an alarm before you sleep. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so set an alarm for half an hour or so before you’re meant to arrive at your destination (just in case you’re early). This will give you peace of mind that you won’t sleep through and miss your intended destination.

The essentials for sleeping on a bus or train

You could call this your sleeping on public transport toolkit. These are the things we recommend having on hand to catch some all-important rest on your next overnight bus or train trip.

  • Earplugs – This is the #1 essential to pack if you want to sleep on a bus or train. Earplugs will block out the noise of the vehicle and other passengers so you can head off to dreamland.
  • Headphones – If you don’t have earplugs, headphones work just as well to block out noise. Bonus points if they’re noise-canceling headphones. 🎧 You could also play some white noise or soothing music to sing you to sleep, either via your music app of choice or a meditation app like Headspace. Good thing most buses and trains have WiFi available!
  • Eye mask – While earplugs block out noise, an eye mask will block out light.
  • Neck pillow – With a neck pillow supporting your head while it rests against the window, we bet you’ll be asleep in no time. If you don’t have a neck pillow available, use any extra layer you have on hand and roll it into a U-shape to place around your neck. Trust us – your neck will thank you.
  • Layers – You won’t be able to sleep if you’re too hot or cold, so pack some layers to keep you nice and cozy.
  •  Comfortable clothing – Yep, throw the fashion rules out the window because comfort is key when it comes to sleeping on a bus or train. Wear whatever is most comfortable for you, whether that’s yoga pants, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, or a loose-fitting dress.
  • Water and snacks – No one wants to get dehydrated or hangry while traveling, so ensure you pack both water and snacks for when you wake up.
  • Sleeping pills – If you find sleeping on public transport difficult, why not speak to your doctor about the suitability of sleeping pills? They might be able to suggest an effective over-the-counter sleep aid.

Now you have the art of sleeping on public transport mastered, it’s time to put it to the test. Wanderu is the best place to book bus and train tickets. It’s easy to search and compare options from various companies in one convenient place, so you find the best trip for you.

Like what you read?
Spread the word:

About the author

Come wander with us!

Follow us for travel hacks, inspo, and deals right in your feed: