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tips for better sleeping when camping


  • first the bad news:
    • whenever you sleep in a new environment, your brain apparently stays half awake (seems one hemisphere does) at least on the first night as an evolutionary survival mechanism
  • the main other issues impacting sleep are:
    • inadequate warmth or excessive warmth
      • the ideal temperature for sleep in a normal bed with a blanket and sheet is 18.3C (ranging between 15-19C)
    • sleeping mattress too narrow, too noisy or too cold
    • using a sleeping bag instead of a quilt cramps you up, and can over heat you if temperatures are above zero degC (but on cool to cold nights you do need to tie the quilt edges down to reduce drafts)
    • pillow inadequate or keeps falling off your sleeping pad
    • breathing in very cold, dry air - see the problem with cold air whilst camping and how to remedy this
    • pre-existing sleep problems
    • getting a nice temperature to sleep - usually your body needs to cool a little but not be too cold
    • sensory distractions - full bladder, noise, lights, smells, discomfort or pain
    • fear of what may be out there, or what weather may bring
    • over-thinking planning for next day, etc

Ensure you take sleeping gear for the conditions

  • check the temperature ratings of the sleeping bag
    • “comfort level” should be below the temperature you expect but not too far below otherwise you will be hot and sweaty although you can layer down if getting too hot or convert it to a quilt
  • ensure the sleeping bag is the right size
    • you need to be able to roll over whilst keeping the sleeping bag in the same position assuming the sleeping bag has more insulation on the top than underneath (underneath gets squashed and inefficient)
    • however, too much air inside the sleeping bag wil take longer for you to heat up
    • consider a quilt instead
  • ensure the sleeping mat is insulated enough and not too noisy when you roll over
    • if sleeping on snow you may need a R rating of 6-9
  • ensure sleeping mat is wide enough for you
    • too narrow and your knees fall off when you sleep on your side, and your arms fall off when you sleep on your back
  • ensure you take a repair tape for your sleeping mat - just in case!

Getting a better night's sleep

  • choose a safe, sheltered and comfortable camp site
    • make sure your head is not lower than your body - choose your slope wisely!
    • if it is a windy night:
      • choose a sheltered spot with minimal risk of branches or trees falling and reduced risk of dust being blown into the tent
      • ensure your tent is pitched well and storm guy ropes tightened as appropriate
      • closing the fly fully will increase tent strength and reduce wind noise from parts flapping
  • avoid caffeine at least 6hrs before sleep
  • avoid alcohol intake - yes it may help you get off to sleep but it destroys REM sleep, increases snoring, and you tend to wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep
  • avoid high adrenaline levels before bed
  • avoid bright lights / smartphones / laptops / etc 1 hour before bed - where possible use red lights as this will maximise your night vision and not disrupt your sleep clock
  • avoid drinking fluids 1 hour before bed as you will end up with a full bladder and have to get up in the cold and possibly wet night to empty it
  • ensure you pass urine just before going to bed
    • ensure your tent is adequately ventilated or heated to minimise condensation (see condensation in tents)
    • eat some nuts before going to bed - digestion creates heat
    • sleep in the least amount of clothes that will keep you from getting cold as you would when you are home - you don't want to get hot and sweaty and clothes are restrictive - just ensure you have a sleeping bag liner to protect your bag
      • as it gets colder you may want to add a layer during the night
      • wear a light beanie to protect your head
      • don't sleep in your socks or underlayer (eg. thermal top/longjohns) you have just hiked in - have a clean warm pair of socks and underlayer reserved for sleeping
  • ensure you are protected from insects and other creatures
    • avoid having food or smells in your tent that would encourage insects and animals such as wombats to try to gain entry
    • if you wish to sleep with the tent door open:
      • you may want to do this to:
        • connect closer with nature and see the animals outside on the ground
        • be able to better see the beautiful Milky Way when you wake up during the night
        • avoid waking everyone up during the night by having to unzip the noisy tent door!
        • to ensure a rapid exit in an emergency - if you use electric blankets or other items at risk of catching fire, finding a zip at such a time may take too long
      • keep items of value hidden and away from the door (or preferably not in the tent) just in case opportunistic thieves are around
      • to avoid mosquitoes in this scenario, you can hang a high visibility double mosquito net from the tent roof which will allow better vision of the night sky than a tent mesh whilst giving good mosquito protection
      • to avoid wombats walking in, just clip a ground tarp to about 40-50cm up the doorway
      • Victorian snakes are diurnal so they don't go hunting at night except on hot nights so the risk from these is very small, and can be further reduced with elevating the door entry
      • you may still get the odd bull ant and millipede coming in so consider having a small house brush to sweep them out of the tent but that's the price for sleeping in nature
  • have a comfortable sleeping pad, preferably one that is thermally insulated from the ground
  • have a comfortable pillow - rolled up clothing doesn't quite cut it
    • consider augmenting with a U-shaped foam travel pillow - it will also keep your neck warm
  • organise your gear so you know where to find it in the dark - especially your headlamp!
  • consider using adjuncts to reduce sensory inputs overnight:
    • ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones (music may help)
      • tents and tarps make a LOT of noise in the wind, not to mention noise from fellow campers (music, talk, snoring, creaking of their thermal air beds, etc) and wild-life
    • eye masks
australia/sleeping.txt · Last modified: 2022/09/28 23:27 by gary1

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