If you've ever been to gym, you probably notice that after a good night's sleep you feel amazing - motivated and stronger. The other days you feel lazy, weak and demotivated.
When you're in the classroom or busy with your job, after a night with a quality sleep you find your creativity, comprehension and persistence regenerated.
That's because a very large portion of how our body and mind functions on a given day is highly dependent on our sleep quality the previous night.
That's why it's crucial to get a quality sleep, and it's even more crucial to get a quality sleep while hiking to enjoy our time outdoors to its fullest.
And although sleeping in a tent will always be less comfortable than sleeping in a bed, there are things that you can do to improve your sleep quality.
As the study conducted by University of Colorado in 2017 concluded, sleeping in a tent once in a while can actually be beneficial and help you arrange your circadian rhythm as melatonin hormone produced a few hours earlier than it does at home due to the absence of artificial light.
For some people sleeping in a tent for a few days can be the answer they're looking to improve their overall sleep quality.
1- Find a flat and soft ground
In our daily lives we always sleep on our soft, flat beds, so we're unaware of its importance on a quality sleep.
If you're not able to find a flat surface, simply pitch your tent on the minimally inclined surface. Align your sleeping pad with your feet facing downhill.
2- Mind the sunrise direction
We all know this feel...
Don't get me wrong. When I'm camping I love waking up at 6 am to watch the sunrise. But if I'm too tired, went to bed too late, or have other plans for the next day, to get a better sleep I always make sure the sun will not hit me in the morning.
Simply choose a tent site accordingly and/or bring eye mask.
3- Stay warm inside the tent
If you pack a heater, use it.
If you don't, learn how to heat a tent without electricity before you hit the trail.
When I was in Gothenburg, Sweden a few months ago, I stumbled upon some very cool hand warmers in an outdoors store called Naturkompaniet. I've never actually used them but people are very, very pleased with most hand warmers. I'd definitely recommend thinking of investing in one such as HotHands Hand Warmers on Amazon. You can obviously place them anywhere you'd like while sleeping except your torso as explained before.
4- Stop drinking anything at least 4 hours before bed
Waking up in the middle of the night to pee interrupts your sleep cycle and lowers sleep quality. Whether you're sleeping in a tent or not, you might want to consider why is it happening and what can you do about it. For me, 4 hours is the limit to make sure my sleep won't be interrupted.
Nevertheless, I do prepare my shoes ready just in case as if I'll wake up and pee at night, and I recommend you the same.
5- Stop drinking caffeine at least 8 hours before bed
A study conducted by Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013 observed the effects of caffeine taken 0, 3 and 6 hours prior to bed. What they found is that even before 6 hours, caffeine still has disruptive effects on sleep although the participants didn't notice its effect before going to bed.
6- Bring earplugs
If you haven't slept in a tent before, I strongly recommend you to try sleeping without ear plugs because some people (including me) swear by it. It's always better than sleeping at home for me.
If you're looking for a three season, 3P tent, make sure checking out our Marmot Limelight 3P vs Tungsten 3P post. Yes, these are 3 person tents - which is, as always, perfect for 2 person and very tight for 3 person.
But I understand that sleeping with the sound of nature isn't for everyone. Just in case you don't like it, definitely bring earplugs to sleep in perfect silence.
7- Wear dry clothes
Hiking and camping require you to be active. Walking with your backpack, pitching your tent and unpacking can tire and make you sweat more than you think. You definitely won't be sleeping well with wet, stinky clothes, so it's important to make a habit of changing right before bed.
8- Avoid overdressing
Wearing a jacket or double sweaters inside the sleeping bag actually inhibits its ability of trapping sufficient heat inside and keeping your warmer.
So instead, go for medium thick nightwear.
9- Bring pillow
If you haven't tried it before, you'd be surprised how uncomfortable it is to sleep without a pillow. A pillow doesn't provide your head a soft surface only, but it also adjusts your head height from ground to a level that you're used to and comfortable with.
Although inflatable pillows are perfect for camping and I highly recommend investing in one, there are other creative ways to DIY.
10- Prevent insects
If insects freak you out, you must make sure not to see them when/if you wake up in the middle of the night. You can waste rest of the night awake trying to convince yourself that you can get rid of all of them only to end up completely sleepless and literally ruin your hiking/camping experience. We can't let this happen.
The easiest and most effective way to prevent them, in most cases, is applying DEET on your skin. If you want longer protection, go with a repellent with higher percentage of DEET. There are DEET products out there up to 10 hours of protection from insects (NOT mosquitoes only).
- Ellen R. Stothard, Andrew W. McHill, Christopher M. Depner, Brian R. Birks, Thomas M. Moehlman, Hannah K. Ritchie, Jacob R. Guzzetti, Evan D. Chinoy, Monique K. LeBourgeois, John Axelsson, Kenneth P. Wright Jr. (2017, Feb). Circadian Entrainment to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle across Seasons and the Weekend. Current Biology, 27(4), 508-513. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31522-6
- SleepFoundation.Org. What is circadian rhythm? https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/what-circadian-rhythm
- Wikipedia. Melatonin hormone. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin
- Rinkunas, Susan. TheCut.Com. Why Do I Wake Up to Pee Every Night? https://www.thecut.com/2016/10/frequent-urination-at-night-nocturia-causes.html
- Healthline.Com. How to Treat an Overactive Bladder at Night. https://www.healthline.com/health/overactive-bladder/overactive-bladder-night#prevention
- Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195–1200. http://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3170
- Gilchrist, A. (2010, Jul). TheGuardian.Com. Can't sleep in your tent? No problem. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/jul/09/glasgow-pillow-sleep
- Wikipedia. DEET. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEET