I've spent 80 hours on overnight trains and learned the hard way that where you sleep makes all the difference

I've spent 80 hours on overnight trains and learned the hard way that where you sleep makes all the difference
  • If you're planning to sleep on an overnight train, I recommend taking the bottom bunk.

  • During my first sleeper-train ride, I slept on the top bunk and found it too bumpy to rest well.

  • Since then, I've slept on the bottom level on other overnight rides. They felt smoother.

"Top or bottom?" an Amtrak attendant asked me during a turndown service back in October 2021.

I was on my first overnight train ride in a roomette. The private, enclosed space has two seats that fold out into a bed and another bunk above the seats that pulls down from the ceiling.

Though the room is meant for two people, I was a solo traveler, so I had a choice to make.

"Top," I said, feeling adventurous and thinking the higher bunk would have better views of the passing landscape. But later that night, I realized I'd made a mistake.

I thought the bed itself was comfy enough, but as I nestled into a sleeping position, I struggled to doze with all the shaking. The whole train ride from New York City to Miami was turbulent, but it felt bumpier on the top bunk than it did in the seats throughout the day. This is likely because the top bunk was suspended in the air.

It was a restless night. I woke up disoriented a few times, and I had to remind myself where I was. There were also times I worried I might fall out of bed.

In the morning, I enjoyed the sunrise from the top bunk, but the elevated views weren't worth the shaky night.

After my bumpy experience on the top bunk, I decided to sleep on the bottom level for all three overnight trains I've taken since. I still felt bumps in the night, but they weren't nearly as shaky as my first experience on a sleeper train, and I've gotten more rest when I’ve slept on the bottom bunk. So for all my future rides, I know where I'll be sleeping.

If you have the choice when traveling by sleeper train, I recommend taking the bottom bunk — especially if you're prone to motion sickness like I am.

You may be missing out on a sweet sunrise, but I think you'll find it's worth it for a good night's rest.

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