How To Sleep On The New York City Subway

1. Waste time with a purpose. Find a McDonald’s or watch a basketball game at the Modell’s in Times Square. Your journey will not begin until you swipe your Metrocard and enter the system. Stall as long as possible above ground. Remember, once you’re in the system, you won’t come out.

2. Swipe in. For the next seven hours, you will be in the subway. You will ride one line until the last stop. Switch to the opposite train. Ride until the end of the line. Repeat. Find a subway line that is mostly underground with many stops. You’ll curse every time wind gusts enter the train every two minutes. This eliminates the lines to Coney Island. Express trains go from end-to-end too quickly. Take the #2.

2a. The #2 train takes you from deep in the heart of Brooklyn into deep into the heart of the Bronx. If your image of New York City involves a combination of pleasant bicycle-riding photographers or Kim Cattrall, this might not be the line for you. If you need a feeling of security, try the #6.

2b. Do not switch subway lines for a shakeup in scenery. It accomplishes nothing. Sight-see during the day.

3. Place your possessions under your legs. Clutching anything to your chest flags a signal that there is something worth losing in your possession. Think like a Jedi. You must be prepared to give up what you are afraid to lose.

4. Close your eyes. Try to sleep.

4a. Feeling secure in a subway requires a temporary suspension of the paranoid part of your brain. Be thankful though that this is New York. Whatever the time, no one will find it strange that you are on the train. You could be coming late from a party, or heading back from a friend’s. You could be on drugs. No one cares.

4b. For beginners, successful sleep is in 30 to 45-minute intervals. If fate decides to give you more experience in the art of sleeping on the subway, it might boost up to a whole hour. With practice, all of the sounds of the subway will mesh into an indistinguishable audio blur.

5. As the night wears on, you will notice your company looking more or more like the kinds of people who sleep on trains. Fossilized ash has hardened their elbows. You’ve never seen so many shades of black or grey in someone’s clothes, shoes, and skin. You must remind yourself that you are not this person. To avoid the association, get off one station before the last stop. This way, you leave alone.

6. When switching trains, non-verbally communicate why you’ve gone from one train to the opposite side. Fumble with a phone. Look at the subway map as if you were lost. Fake yawn. Create plausible deniability that you were sleeping on the train.

7. Look at the time. 2:56. Do some quick math. 75 minutes each way puts another two round trips before daylight approaches.

8. Bored? Good. You should be sleeping.

9. Can’t sleep? Allow yourself a moment to reflect.

9a. Remember that you aren’t the kind of person to be sleeping on the subway.

9b. Remember that you aren’t the kind of person that can ask to crash on another couch either.

9c. Remember that sleeping on the train is better than sleeping at the bus stop, and the two weeks of bronchitis that followed.

10. As daylight approaches, reward yourself and break rule 2c. Transfer onto the A Train heading toward Far Rockaway. If you time it properly, a stretch of rail will be over Jamaica Bay. There are no skyscrapers or murals, parks or cemeteries; all things that you’ve seen during your night in the station. Just the water. It is a total sunrise before your eyes. Remind yourself that you would not have seen it had you been waking up in a bed.

11. Enjoy the sunrise and head back toward Manhattan.

12. Take the A toward Brooklyn. Get off at High Street. Sleep some more at Brooklyn Bridge Park. TC mark

image – littleny


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  • ?

    what is this exactly

  • Blake Austin

    I once locked a friend and myself out of his apartment on 2nd when neither of us had the funding or the desire to drill the lock. We just wandered around Mahattan till 5 AM when he went back to work in the same clothes he wore the night before while I slept in Grand Central’s food court. Wish I’d read this a year ago.

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  • TGold

    The 2 is an express train… Well, at least through Manhattan. I don’t really get the point of this article, though. Is it written for homeless people? Yeah, I’ve taken a quick nap on the subway while going to my destination, but why would someone need to spend an entire night there?

    • Robert Wohner (@robwoh)

      Your comment illuminates the purpose of this article. You see homelessness as a condition concerning a specific subset of the New York population. Except that the whole population can experience it. Those that do have to live as the homeless do, just while internally avoiding the mentality of being “homeless”. You never know when you might be forced to remember this advice. Be glad you don’t.

  • Björn

    What is the purpose of this poorly written ‘article’? I’ve had enough of these ‘how to …’ or ‘a list of …’ posts. Can’t this website go back to posting articles that contain actual content?

  • Ryan Pasaoa (@ryanterrence)

    My “How To Sleep On The New York City Subway”:

    1) Hop on your train.
    2) Wake up at your stop.
    3) Success.

    I was slightly confused on what this article was trying to say/accomplish, but I love sleeping on the train. It’s the most comfortable bed for me. The repetition of the train trekking, and people going in and out. Perfect white noise for me (I don’t really know what white noise is.)

    I guess I will follow this article…if I ever want to sleep on the subway system over night. Should be wary of falling asleep and the train going into the garage with you still in it.

  • Nicasio Martinez

    As a child, 1950s up, the IRT Lexington Avenue Express from 86th St. to 125th St. was what I lived for. When the speeding train seemed to make its fastest express run, the train would rock and bump sideways, the engineering of the steel wheels slim rim, knocking against the rails but never derailing. The next big thrill is the almost right angle turn of the IRT Whiteplains line from Simpson St. to Freeman St. Train travel should have a tourist guide brochure to point out these landmark subway and elevated line greats.

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    […] Big cities can be helpful. You can sleep in train/bus stations, although you may need to buy a ticket to do so, in which case buy the cheapest one. You can sleep on the subway, especially in a big city like New York. […]

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