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Catch some shut-eye during odd hotel hours

Flight attendants spend a lot of time in hotels, and they’re not there to party. They’re there to sleep. But a good night’s rest can be a challenge when your plane gets in late, the housekeeper is at the door, or the folks in the next room are in the throes of honeymoon bliss.
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Hotels have a special place in every flight attendant’s heart. They are our rest and refuge after a long day’s work. We get to see a lot of them, too; in fact, most crew members will stay in at least one hotel every time they go to work.

Flight crews keep odd hotel hours. We might check in at 2 a.m. and check out at 10 p.m., so getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge. For example, at 8 a.m. the attack of the housekeeping staff begins, accompanied by the whining of vacuums, slamming of doors, and yelling of instructions from one end of the hall to the other.

In Europe, I have been awakened many times by hotel staff checking for a depleted minibar. Can you imagine waking up to find some strange man at the foot of your bed counting drinks? The “Do Not Disturb” sign may be on the door, but the minibar counter seems to have a waiver.

I value my sleep, so through the years I have gathered some tricks for getting a good night’s rest away from home. Here are the top 10.

1. Location, location, location
Don’t accept a room by the elevator or ice machine. You will feel the vibration all night long. It might not be apparent at first but, believe me, when the lights are out you’ll notice. And if the hotel has a disco, make sure you get a room at least two floors away. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent in South America trying to sleep to a samba beat.

2. Do Not Disturb!
If your room does not have a “Do Not Disturb” sign, call the concierge or make your own sign out of the hotel stationery. Without it, the housekeeping staff will drive you bananas in the morning. I’ve lost count of the times a maid has caught me stumbling to the bathroom, naked.

3. Earplugs
I love earplugs. They can make an otherwise miserable flight bearable, and they can be your only chance for a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Keep a pair on the bedside table and pop them in if you need them.

4. Party time
If there is a party going on next door, do not — I repeat, do not — call security. Instead, pack your bags, return to the front desk, and request another room. It’s very easy for the front desk clerk to say there are no more rooms on the phone, but hard to do so in person. If you’re feeling vengeful, you can give the revelers a call early the next morning, when they’re snoring away with a hangover about to explode. Mind you, the problem isn’t always alcohol. My advice also applies to that besotted couple next door who seem to be going for the sexual marathon record. It’s fun to listen to the whoops and hollers for the first 10 minutes, but after a couple of hours, you’ll be hoping for a visit from the vice squad.

5. Television timer
If there is a timer function on the TV remote control, set it to turn off the TV no matter how awake you feel. Waking up to a horror movie or war movie on high volume is a scary experience. Besides, the guy next door might have forgotten his earplugs.

6. Operator
Wrong-number calls are common at hotels, so call the operator and place a “do not disturb” order on your in-room phone when you want to sleep. You can request a “do not disturb” until a certain time or until you call and cancel. Alternately, you can just unplug your phone.

7. Trailblazing
Clear a path from the bed to the toilet. That way, you won’t have to turn on a light or stub a toe on the way to the bathroom for your nightly visit.

8. Liquids
Keep water within hand’s reach. Looking for some in the middle of the night can ruin any chance of getting back to sleep.

9. Curtains
Close the curtains all the way so the sun doesn’t wake you in the morning.

10. False alarm
Make sure the alarm clock has been turned off. There are people who get a kick out of setting the alarm to go off in the middle of the night as a practical joke on the next guest. Not my type of humor, but it’s out there.

If you value sleep as much as I do, these strategies are well worth considering. Sweet dreams!

James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “.” For more information about James, visit his Web site or send him an e-mail.