Dave and I have been exhausted every day since arriving in India.

We can never put our finger on why each day is such a struggle to wake up. That is until we started discussing just how awful our sleeps have been.
It inspired me to write a post about the things that will ruin your sleep in India

10 Things that will ruin your sleep in India.

– India is filled with wild dogs roaming the streets and beaches and deserts and cities.  You can’t get away from them and as soon as the sun goes down, they own the night.  Dogs will bark and howl all night long and their vocal chords never tire.  They exhaust us.

Transport trucks
- We can never escape the noise from the Transport Truck.   They can’t just have a quick honk, no they have to have horns that sound like elephants trumpeting, the trill of a saxophone or just an annoying sequence of high pitched notes.  We heard them in the desert, in the middle of the night on our buses, in our hotels and even on the beach!

Hard Beds – Every bed that we have slept on in India has been so hard, it hurts our backs.  I have developed chronic back pain and whenever I roll over in the middle of the night, a sharp pain jolts up my back waking me up.  It takes a good 10 minutes for me to get moving in the morning.  Even the most inviting beds are hard as a rock when we sit on them.  I guess our old bones are starting to feel the effects of aging.

Ghats - It seemed like a romantic thing to do.  Get a hotel overlooking the lake and the Ghats on the other side of the water.  The morning was another story.  Before dawn, women are out on the steps washing their clothes.  They don’t just scrub and wring out their loads, they whack and smack them with paddles. If they don’t have a paddle, they just end up smacking their clothes on a rock.  I have know idea how this gets the clothes clean, but it does.
It is like listening to an amplified game of tennis.


- Crows are everywhere and they are loud.  They caw first thing in the morning and in Goa while staying in coco-huts, they jump on your rooftop with pounding might.   It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have such booming voices.

Mosques – I wonder what made mosques decided to sing their prayers through crackling loudspeakers.  The world hasn’t always had electricity and technology, so it was just a short while ago that prayers were spoken in the Muslim Religion without the whole world having to listen.   As one girl said in Kerala, God can hear you even if you whisper.


- I am not going to let the Hindu Temples off the hook. They can be loud too.  We have heard drums pounding from the local temple well into the night and then starting up well before dawn.  It makes it impossible to get into a deep sleep when you only have about 2 hours of peace and quiet.

Trains - We have been in places that we didn’t even think were close to railroad tracks, and yet, we would hear their blaring horns announce their presence as they rolled through town.  Just when you think you are going to have a relaxing sleep and are falling into that deep slumber, another horn jolts you awake in a start.


Pigeons - Who would have thought that pigeons could be so noisy.  If you are unlucky enough to have pigeons make a nest in your window, you are in for a noisy night.  Their cute little coos can become extremely annoying at 4:00 am as they fly to and from their nest.  I swear they just want to wake up their neighbours trying to slumber inside.

Cell Phones- There are over 500 million cell phones in India and people love to show them off.  They have their music blaring from their phones.  Many people carry two cell phones here! On the bus, on the train, outside your window, cell phones go off at all hours.  I love it when I am trying to sleep on the sleeper train and musical ring towns pierce through the air waking me through my earplugs.  Classic.

So there you have it.

The reason that Dave and I are exhausted each day in India.  Every morning after breakfast, we both feel like we could have a nap.
But, there are places to see, people to meet and stories to write.
Instead we walk around in a daze day after day catching a wink here and there but never really feeling relaxed.
Can a person relax in India?

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Leave a comment


    1. davendeb

      Dan, very true about the heat. We are in the north now and going through a very cold spell. your point makes me think of another as well, the cold! The rooms are not heated and the temperature drops drastically in the middle of the night. I have woken up freezing many times this past week!

  1. Cyn

    My husband and I spent three weeks in India in December. All you said is so true! But the challenge to adjust is the fun part:) Except maybe for those hard mattresses. I never quite got used to that! Awesome blog! Enjoy your adventures!
    .-= Cyn´s last blog ..Sketch Victims In A Starbucks =-.

    1. davendeb

      You are right Cyn, It is fun to adjust to the experience. And just as fun to share the little crazy things about travel. They make for far more interesting stories and we always seem to remember the experience more than a particular destination.

  2. Akila

    Both Patrick and I started laughing out loud about this one because we just spent a week in India hanging out with our families before coming to Thailand. We only got one night of really good sleep because, man, those beds are like bricks. I remember when I was really young that my brother’s side of the bed broke in the middle of the night while my brother and I were sleeping on it, and around 5:00 in the morning, my grandfather wakes me up by pounding the bed back together. It turns out that the bed is just a piece of wood with a teeny tiny foam mattress on top.
    .-= Akila´s last blog ..kozhakattai (sweet coconut dumplings) =-.

  3. Bethany

    Wow, that sucks. I guess it’s good to note that it might be a good idea to bring the little blow up camping mattresses to India. I wonder – could you buy some anywhere. It would suck to carry it around but it might help with part of the issue. I am the same way getting out of a stiff bed, it takes me forever because you know you are only one neck turn from pulling a massive muscle and ruining your day. To think about putting on a backpack after a night like that sounds truly painful. It sounds like you guys need to head to an island so your bodies can recoup! Any near you? Lack of sleep for me is always the gateway to getting sick. blah.
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..Somewhere In Time – Graveyard Musicians =-.

    1. davendeb

      Bethany-I love the idea of the camping mattress. We can sleep so well on our themarest. If only we brought it. Ah, if only we brought a lot of things that we normally bring. We scaled down so much on this trip that we will be doing an entire post on things that we should have brought. Like our down jackets-we always bring them with us and stupidly didn’t to India, now we are suffering. Thermarest would have been great as well. Both items are so light we never would have noticed carrying them:(

  4. Trisha Miller

    Wow you two have my total sympathy – I know how horrible I feel if I have a sleepless night, so I’m amazed that after weeks of such bad sleep you’re not both completely insane!

    I know there are big differences in earplugs as I’ve tried lots of them. The best I’ve found are the kind that are like little balls of play-dough (but don’t use play dough!) – you roll them in your palms to warm and soften the ear plugs, then when you put them in your ears they mold to fit your ears better, blocking more noise. Those have saved me on a few trips to very noisy places.

    Good luck – I hope you get to somewhere quieter soon!
    .-= Trisha Miller´s last blog ..The Importance of Finding Your Travel Niche =-.

    1. davendeb

      Well we are a little insane Trisha:) But things are good. I will check out the earplugs that are like play-dough. Great tip. I have one ear that plugs never stay in. I think that the canal is really small or something so they sound like they will be perfect for me!

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  6. Spunky Girl

    I hear you on hard beds. It’s the same thing in China. But I eventually got use to them. Now I can sleep on almost anything, which is odd for me. Your post has given me some insights as to what to look forward to when I’m in India in October.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Spunky Girl. You are right, you do get used to it. Our backs are slowly working into the feeling and I think in the long run it will be good for the backs. Make them stronger and hopefully we will be able to sleep anywhere like you soon:)

  7. Mariellen Ward

    Hi Dave and Deb, You have to schedule in “down time” and sanctuaries, like a camel safari in the desert, a yoga ashram, a beach resort, etc. Traveling in India is tiring, but if you account for it by going to quiet places regularly or splurging on a nice hotel or first class train travel, you can learn to cope.

    Personally, I find the noisiest places are often the most touristy. I try to stay away from those.

    Good luck!
    .-= Mariellen Ward´s last blog ..Travel tips from Incredible India Tourism =-.

    1. davendeb

      Mariellen, So true about the down time. We have done the camel safari and the yoga, so it is beach time now! Booking our ticket to Sri Lanka as we speak!:)

  8. Yogesh

    Considering there are so many people in world who do not get proper food and sleep, I guess those hard beds are great enough for we, human beings.
    .-= Yogesh´s last blog ..4 Photos =-.

    1. davendeb

      You are right Yogesh, at least we have the option of a bed and traveling to India. It is just a tongue in cheek list about how loud India is. But so true, so often we see people sleeping on hard floors, or workers in hotels just sleeping on the lounge chairs for the night. We are very lucky.

  9. Audrey

    Ear plugs! This is probably the most valuable thing in our backpacks. A good night of sleep is worth its weight in gold when on the road constantly – you will get exhausted and sick if you aren’t able to rest properly at night.

    We never used ear plugs before this trip, but have become almost addicted to them in places like India or Vietnam (motorbike noises everywhere). Not all earplugs are created equal, however. We use Howard Leight earplugs – very comfortable, can be squished for different ear sizes, and (when necessary) they can be washed to extend their lives.

    Good luck!
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..Are You a Stuff Junkie or an Experience Junkie? =-.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Audrey, Ear plugs have certainly been a God Send, I will check out the Howard Leight ones for our next travel. I love that you can wash them, our ears can get pretty nasty during some of our travels:)

  10. Rasheed Hooda

    Growing in India and Pakistan, I never had any problem getting to sleep. I suppose you learn to tune out noises that are not out of the ordinary.

    As for the Mosques prayers on the loud speakers, it is actually only the call for the prayers that is sang on the loudspeakers to alert people that it is time for the prayers. Of course, in today’s day and time, there are alarm clocks that can be programmed with five times to remind you of the prayer times, but traditions die hard, especially in matters of faith.

    I can relate to hard beds as well. As a matter of fact, I had a hell of a time sleeping when I first came to America, because I kept sinking in the bed trying to turn in the middle of the night, and my body had no support…. lol

    Glad you’re enjoying your trip nevertheless.
    .-= Rasheed Hooda´s last blog ..An Absolutely Brilliant Way to Be Yourself =-.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Rasheed, thanks for the information. You are right, it is only the call to prayer, I just thought that the quote was funny. She used it during a festival in November when they prayed all day. We have been around places at the time of a lot of festivals and prayers have been happening over the loudspeakers for hours on end. But you are so right, traditions die hard. They keep ringing bells in Catholic churches too eh. Always a big announcement.
      It is also true about the beds, our backs are starting to get used to them.

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  12. Earl

    Funny list…it instantly brings me back. I’m sure you’ve also been woken up by the vegetable-wallahs on at least one occasion much too early in the morning! Who wants to buy cucumbers or bananas at 5:30am is beyond me…but they scream and ring their bells as if everybody would be interested.

    And you can definitely relax in India…just visit the village of Kalpa in Himachal Pradesh, it’s as quiet and peaceful as can be…
    .-= Earl´s last blog ..How Apartment Hunting Taught Me About Goals…And Jambalaya =-.

    1. davendeb

      Earl, I was so going to put the Vegetable Wallahs on there too and then I just ran out of room for the top ten. But yes!!! we have heard them go by in the mornings. It is so true, I don’t think anyone buys at that time of day, and yet they walk by religiously every morning. I will check out Himachal Pradesh.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Johnny, Ah yes, the overnight bus trips. We were lucky enough not to have the loudspeakers, but I have heard so much about them. Instead we heard those musical horns from transport trucks and music blaring from cell phones. I love that the speaker holes were a tin pie pan! hahaha!

  13. ltv

    I mean no offence, but as an Indian living in India, I can’t find any real problems in the list. It’s just part of living here – This is the deal.
    You get used to most of the sounds and even start enjoying some – I wake up in the morning listening to the call from the local mosque and I love that (though I am christian myself).

    However I can understand how adjusting to a foreign place can be difficult – During my time in the UK (great place, good people overall) , there was something different about the water – it would quench your thirst, but it wouldn’t satisfy.
    People were generally so quiet in public and would drive in such an orderly fashion that I would feel like my head was slowly expanding. And on Friday evenings, it was the other extreme(the people, not the driving).
    And on one occasion, I remember sleeping on the carpet in a hotel since the bed was too soft – after the first night it started giving me backaches.

    I guess the only sensible thing one can do in such circumstances is to accept things as different and try to adjust to them as much as one can.


    1. davendeb

      Hi Itv. Thanks for stopping by, so great to hear from someone that is from India and lives here. It is true, I am sure that you get used to the noise. I have to say, we booked a nice room last night and woke up with very sore backs because the bed was too soft!:)

  14. Migration Mark

    Growing up with lots of people and then attending University with LOUD people all night long has forced me to be able to utterly tune out while trying to sleep. Usually I can fall into a deep sleep amidst some chaos. Some of the things you mentioned can be really annoying though, for me, especially people showing off cell phones and using speaker phones in public areas…annoying.
    Hope you guys get some quality sleep soon!

    1. davendeb

      I am with you on the cell phone thing. It is driving me a little crazy. But then again, I remember when I got my first cell phone in 1995. I loved showing it off myself. I am sure that soon people will discover silent mode…maybe???

  15. Shannon OD

    I began to sleep with my ipod on a soft music a few months into my trip (and I prefer to sleep to silence, so this was a compromise!) because of these very reasons. Although it may not last through the night, it succeeded in putting me in a deep sleep through the barking and such. Sorry to hear that your back is paining you Deb, I got a great massage in McLeod Ganj if you are headed up that way! :-)
    .-= Shannon OD´s last blog ..A Little Advice…Travel Around the World Without Flying (One) =-.

    1. davendeb

      That is a good idea, I have used my ipod on the train and the sof music definitely is a big help. I like the Ipod better than the earplugs myself.

  16. Jennifer @ Approach Guides

    I agree – India does have all of those things and more to keep you up at night. It’s funny though…those things never bothered me and I always slept like a baby. I think that is what living near Canal St in NYC will do to you!

    I hope you eventually get used to the noise and get a softer bed. Maybe a stay at an Intercontinental (where I retreated to when I needed a little western luxury) is in order!

    1. davendeb

      Lucky you slept well Jennifer, I am a very light sleeper. Oh well, what can you do. Funny, we are at a nice hotel right now and we both woke up with an even more sore back from the soft bed!

  17. Varun

    This is such a funny post. As an Indian who has lived in India we have learnt to tune out the noises from our head. Be thankful you are not visiting during some huge festival like Diwali/ganesh festival or something else ( Tons of festivals too) or you would have been deaf by the time you write the post. The hard beds are actually better for your back. But the thing I agree most with is pigeons, couple of them had taken to staying in our balcony and it was a nightmare with the noise of them walking in the night or the cooing.. We eventually had to put in a wire mesh to keep them out.

    1. davendeb

      Hi Varun, Thanks for the reply. we love hearing from people from India. We always want to know what you think! You are right, the hard beds are better, we just have to get used to them. We went to a nice hotel the other night that had a very soft bed, and our backs were killing us the next morning. I guess we are already starting to get used to the beds. I love that you agree with the pigeons. We thought that people would think that we were nuts with that one, but really, they are loud!

  18. Nora - The Professional Hobo

    Very true, and a good reminder. We’ve become soft living in the Aussie countryside….the occasional truck driving by on the main road through the night is enough to keep my boyfriend awake! Yikes – we’d better toughen up before moving on…

  19. Nisha

    I laughed out loud when I read this one. The things which are so obvious and part of our daily life look so different to others. :-)

    I am so much with Rasheed here. Growing up in India does teach you to be patient and take things as they come. As regards hard beds, sometimes I am not able to sleep on soft mattresses abroad. They give my back a tough time.
    But what I hate most is the usage of loudspeakers and horns.

    All the best in India & happy learning. :-)

    1. davendeb

      Hi Nisha, glad you enjoyed it. It is true, we are learning patience and it is true, we are getting used to the hard beds over the softer ones now too!

    1. davendeb

      Ahh, haven’t had that one happen to us yet. Thanks for the heads up, I am sure it will be happening sometime in the near future:-)

  20. Garrett

    Yikes! India, after reading a lot of your stories on the subject, just sounds emotionally exhausting.

    It sounds like Sri Lanka is/was your vacation from your vacation.

  21. ankur

    hahaha, and i thought i was the only one to complain about these things.
    but, i feel one gets accustomed to all the noises.
    yeah the pigeons can bother u during the night but its always gud to wake up to their sounds in the morning, takes u closer to the nature in a city like delhi.

    we guys in india like to celebrate our festivals with a lot of pomp n show, not quite the westerners who prefer the quieter way of celebrations. i gues there is no way gettin around the noise frm the temples and mosques, somake use of the ear plugs.

    hard mattresses are a sign of budget hotels, u will get softer mattresses in star hotels. as a matter of fact people in india prefer to sleep on hard beds rather than sofetr ones. i had a hard time when i went abroad, cudnt sleep at night due to the soft mattress.

    its always good to have a local contact in the country/city u r visiting.
    if i can be of any help (am in delhi) please feel free to contact me (email: ankur.dhody@gmail.com).


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  23. Jess

    Unfortunately, I live by a train… -.-
    This list should be “10 things that will ruin your sleep ANYWHERE”

  24. abdalrahman

    hey, about the mosques, its onlyloud when they announce for people the time for prayer, they do not do the whole prayer out loud, god can hear you even when u whisper, but people dont..
    i guess its always hard to adjust to another culture and place…

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  26. ruby

    well whatever u wrote here is little bit on the higher notes …..
    the problem does exist but then you could plan in a better way …..
    choose places which sure have less of noise ……..
    the problem here is that atleast during sleep time you don’t want any noise …
    so choose locations where there is no noise and please there are soft beds available …
    if it was loud for everyone then how would you expect local people to be getting up early in the morning …..
    i am a resident of new delhi and have been here from last 40 odd years ….
    i have seen most of tourist picking up the old delhi for residing ….
    so its their choice of settling in poor accommodations and then complaining ….

  27. som

    Hi ,
    First of All thanks to devendev who is trying to see both sides(his reply shows that).We have lot of problems,Accepted but problem increases when you visit different countries with different culture.I have seen some usa and european country and and found some things.wont say those are negatives ,I would say those are different like in USA almost all people speak english and same culture,while in india its more than 1000 language and different culture.


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