Pack an overnight bag with the right supplies and you'll sleep wellIf I could afford to stay at the Hyatt, I could probably sleep like a queen. But prudence steers me away from luxury and into the arms of the poor relations: Econo Lodge, Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn.

Now, I’m not knocking motels of the budget variety. They DO make travel affordable, and the wall art and continental breakfasts are to die for. But if you’re an insomnia sufferer like me, an overnight bag with the right supplies can make a difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one.

Noise Protection

Noise always sets me up for insomnia. Highway and air traffic, clanking pipes, blaring TVs, newlyweds or a party in the room next door: any of these can put the kibosh on sleep.

So I always pack my earplugs. And not just any earplugs will do: I go for the silicone type that mold to your ears and form an airtight seal. Foam earplugs? More power to insomniacs for whom they work. For serious noise protection, silicone gets my vote.

You can also deal with noise by trying to mask it. There are travel-size white noise machines and I-pods and MP3 players for those who prefer more melodious sound tracks of their own.

My brother swears by a product called SleepPhones (check it out at It’s a soft headband containing a pair of very thin speakers covering your ears. A tiny cable at the back of the headband connects to the sound device of your choice.

Light Protection

Why is it that budget motels are so keen on 100-watt bulbs? It doesn’t make sense. But solving the problem is easy with an eye mask.

Eye masks are a fashion accessory these days, available in myriad colors, patterns and thicknesses. But if your aim is a comfortable night’s sleep, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Choose your eye mask carefully. Plush feels good to the touch, but it may wind up making your face too hot.
  • Make sure your eye mask conforms to your face so that no sliver of light is able to get through. Colorful masks are nice to look at, but if you buy a thin one, make sure the inside fabric is dark.
  • Get a mask with an adjustable strap. Elastic straps tend to stretch out.

Protection from Inner Disturbances

If you’re digestively challenged, you’ll want to pack pink bismuth tablets (a.k.a. Pepto Bismol). It’s maddening when you end up with a comfy bed in a quiet, dark room … and the spicy saag paneer you ate for dinner decides it’s time to stage a comeback.

If your bed is right next to the heater, cough drops can alleviate the tickle in your throat.

The last two items in my overnight bag are sleeping pills (for use when all else fails) and a Brookstone alarm clock, which shows the time only when pressed on top. (For more on why I avoid looking at clocks at night, read Clocking the Hours at Night.) If clocks at night make you anxious, you may want to try one like this.

Packing these items can set you up for better nights on the road. There’s more of a chance that your sleep at La Quinta will end up feeling like sleep at the Ritz.

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.

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