I'm a pretty heavy sleeper and sometimes I need to wake up earlier for a bus/flight or to catch early light.

When sharing a room in a hostel type place, what's a good way to set an alarm without waking the whole room ?

  • 5
    Not sure if strictly travel-related, but can't think of another situation I've been in sharing a room with strangers and needing to wake up early
    – blackbird
    Jun 14, 2015 at 14:19
  • 9
    No worries, in my opinion this is perfectly on topic for this SE!
    – Bernhard
    Jun 14, 2015 at 18:13
  • 4
    I have a Fitbit Charge which allows for wrist vibration alarms, amongst other things. I tried it to wake up with once, startled the heck out of me. Jun 15, 2015 at 3:40
  • 5
    When you have a popular phone, make sure not to use the default alarm sound - people will mistake it for theirs, and as an added bonus, you won't wake up from theirs as much!
    – Sanchises
    Jun 15, 2015 at 17:27
  • 2
    Don't hit the snooze!
    – Aaron Hall
    Jun 16, 2015 at 1:15

6 Answers 6


Many phones have a silent, vibration only mode as part of the regular alarms. A cheap Fitbit Flex band will do that too.

If a vibrating alarm isn't enough, you can get a wristband that delivers electric shocks to wake up, such as the Pavlok wristband (store):

At first, it will act like any other alarm clock, with a gentle vibration to get you up. But if you keep ignoring the vibration or hitting snooze, the wristband will send a shock to wake you up for good.

For a custom solution:

enter image description here (from Wallace and Gromit)

  • 1
    A cheap Fitbit Flex band will do that trick (vibration), it can have many alarms (you can set it using your phone). I use it and I am happy with it, and the battery lasts for a week. Jun 14, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    @IKeelYou Do they have electric shocks? Jun 14, 2015 at 20:58
  • @FranckDernoncourt no only vibration, I actually edited the comment to include that but you were faster to comment :) Jun 14, 2015 at 20:59
  • 3
    That custom solution would have been handy back in school !
    – blackbird
    Jun 15, 2015 at 12:07

You should not feel self conscious about having to wake up early. We've all had to do this at some point during our (backpacking) travels, hence you can expect people to be tolerant about your early bird alarm. Having said this there are a few unwritten rules you should respect when having to get up early in the morning in a shared hostel room:

  1. Place your alarm next to you so that it is readily available and can be turned off quickly. Don't place it out of reach (for example stashing is at the bottom of your packed bag is what you shouldn't do) because it will take you ages to get to it before you can turn it off hence ensuring that it'll wake other people up too.

  2. Don't hit the snooze button. If you have to get up, get up. One snooze might be acceptable but it would be better to avoid snoozing alltogether.

  3. Don't turn on the light. If you have to get ready use a flashlight, or your phone for lighting. If your alarm didn't manage to wake other up, turning on the lights most probably will.

  4. Pack your stuff the night before so that you won't have to spend half an hour rummaging through your pack looking for a clean pair of socks thus waking everyone else up. This is especially true if you have a tendency of packing your gear in plastic bags. Indeed these tend to make an unholy amount of noise which appears to be particularly unbearable in the early morning.

  5. If you have en-suite bathroom facilities, shower the night before. Waking up to the sound of running water might be pleasant if you camp next to a river but not in a hostel room.

  6. Out of sheer courtesy, warn your room-mates about your early-bird alarm. This will allow them to prepare for it, and take some counter measures to avoid being woken up (including wearing earplugs, sleeping under the pillow, etc.).

  7. Everything goes after 08:00. This is a sensible unwritten rule I found on this hostel etiquette website which states that the limit for unholiness when it comes to early birds is 08:00 in the morning.

All in all your main objective should be to be as courteous as possible to avoid waking others up too without hindering your right to an early bird start of the day. For more information on the topic note that the internet is scattered with Hostel Etiquette webpages or blog posts. I already linked one, here is another interesting one.

  • 1
    Packing the night before and being quiet once I wake up are pretty obvious, it's waking up part. But the 8:00 rule is good to know
    – blackbird
    Jun 15, 2015 at 12:05
  • 4
    @Blackbird57 You'd be surprised as to how not obvious Packing the night before and being quiet once I wake up are. :)
    – JoErNanO
    Jun 15, 2015 at 14:57
  • 2
    I agree with all the points except 7. That's just one guy's opinion, because of his routine, and he assumes everyone else should fit with it. Everyone has a different routine and I've rarely stayed in a hostel where the whole dorm is up before 8am. That's not to mention people who are jetlagged, have just come in from a 36 hour journey with no sleep, any number of genuine reasons for sleeping at any hour whilst travelling. A much more sensible unwritten rule is, if you see someone sleeping at any time, just be considerate, don't talk, and don't hang out in the room for long.
    – techpacker
    Jun 15, 2015 at 22:50
  • "Everything goes after 08:00" - if we ever happen to end up sharing a dorm, I'm going to call your bluff by hiring a brass band to come in at 08:02 :-D Jun 17, 2015 at 13:13
  • I have been at youth hostels where bagpipes were played at 8am (or possibly earlier I can't remember the exact time)
    – mmmmmm
    Mar 1, 2019 at 22:30

Immediately turn off your alarm after you're awake. So, keep the alarm very close to your ears, under or next to your cushion, or perhaps above your head, if your hostel bed allows for that. And find the lowest sound level that wakes you.

  • 2
    This is the courteous thing to do. Don't feel scared to place an alarm to wake yourself up. Just make sure it doesn't wake everyone else up too.
    – JoErNanO
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:53
  • 11
    @JoErNanO Waking others is probably unavoidable but, as long as you turn off your alarm quickly, there's a good chance they'll soon get back to sleep. Jun 14, 2015 at 17:46
  • 3
    What about the alarms that get louder in time? I think this increasing volume alarm is quite standard on modern phones. I guess it might help?
    – Bernhard
    Jun 14, 2015 at 18:14
  • 26
    @Bernhard As a light sleeper, I'd much rather hear somebody else's loud alarm for a few seconds than wait for their alarm to ramp up from loud-enough-to-wake-me to loud-enough-to-wake-them. Jun 14, 2015 at 22:03
  • 2
    @DavidRicherby: That's an excellent argument for not using alarms that slowly increase the volume when staying in a dorm.
    – MastaBaba
    Jun 15, 2015 at 1:21

You can also get a vibrating alarm, which you can find in stores selling goods for hearing-impaired people.

  • 3
    Many phones these days can do that as part of the regular alarms.
    – Willeke
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:38
  • 3
    Yes but a phone vibrator may not be strong enough to wake up some people (mine doesn't work for me).
    – fkraiem
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:06
  • It may not work for everybody but some people reading this conversation might find it helpful.
    – Willeke
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:08
  • I use a $100 smart watch that vibrates on my wrist. Jun 14, 2015 at 20:24
  • I've had good results using a phone with alarm app with a vibrate setting under your pillow (but check this works for you first). Some apps also have options involving shining the built-in torch (if there is one) or the screen, which could help if you angle it right. Jun 14, 2015 at 21:30

If you fall asleep easily, perhaps you could fall asleep with the earphones (of earbud type) in your ears and have an alarm set up on your phone with the earphones connected to the phone (set up so that the phone's speakers are muted and all sound goes to the earphones). This can be enhanced by using the tip from the comments on having phone's vibration on.

  • 8
    I find earbuds fall out while sleeping.
    – Scimonster
    Jun 14, 2015 at 19:41
  • 1
    @Scimonster: Perhaps you should consider trying a different brand of earbuds. Jun 14, 2015 at 20:15
  • 1
    No matter how good they are, if you move around - which you well may do more than normally when sleeping in a hostel due to noise etc. - you can both pull out the earbuds, pull the entire cord out of the phone, pull the phone of the bed and thus get the cord disconnected, etc. I have tried it a couple of times and at least for me it's entirely impossible (worked about 2 out of 3 nights). Jun 14, 2015 at 20:19
  • Just an afterthough: If you do know about a smartphone app where the alarm first goes over the headphones and then over the speaker, now that would be an amazing solution. That way if they don't fall out you won't wake anybody up, but if they do, it's not the end. Jun 14, 2015 at 22:06
  • @DavidMulder: Unfortunately I am not aware of such an app :( Jun 15, 2015 at 10:35

Have you tried a sleep cycle alarm clock (e.g. Sleep Cycle by Northcube)? I too am a heavy sleeper but if it vibrates at a shallow stage of sleep, it could wake you up without any sound. A much cheaper alternative than the shock wristband.

Perhaps try using the sleep cycle as a primary alarm and the noisy alarm as a back-up if you really want to minimize the chance of waking others.

Also, a free version of the sleep cycle alarm clock is to time your sleep in multiples of 90 minutes--you're most likely to be in a shallow stage of sleep at 90, 180, 270, etc. minutes after nodding off. If you set a vibrating alarm for yourself at any of those points, you're likely to wake up with minimal disturbance to neighbors. I find myself doing this the most these days.

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