Can’t Sleep When Camping? Try This!

woman sleeping in tent

Camping affords you the chance to ditch busy city streets, work emails, and household chore lists in favor of fresh air, clear night skies, and the soothing sounds of Mother Nature. But sometimes it is harder to sleep in a tent than in the big city.

While camping lets you try your hand at roughing it without many of life’s modern amenities, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of your comfort and a good night’s sleep.

Eliminating distractions, getting the most comfortable gear for the weather, and sticking to a solid camping bedtime routine can go a long way to solve any trouble sleeping while camping. Setting up an ideal outdoor sleep environment, free from disturbances, will help you get more quality shut-eye.

If you can’t sleep while camping, you’re in good company. Even seasoned backpackers and backcountry hikers can experience issues dozing under the stars. A good night’s rest in the comfort of your bed is one thing. Getting a solid night of restful sleep in the great outdoors is another challenge entirely.

Whether you’re car camping or traveling in an RV, you can increase the likelihood of a good night’s rest when you set yourself up for outdoor comfort.

Discover more about how to put your outdoor slumber troubles behind you by reading this guide on how to get to sleep when camping.

What To Do If You Can’t Sleep While Camping

Few things are as frustrating as tossing and turning throughout the night. But when you’re away from the conveniences of home, it isn’t as simple to find ways to drift back to dreamland. Fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take as a camper to combat the causes of many common sleep disturbances.

1. Address Campground Distractions

Car camping setup looking at sunset
Camping in the back of your car can help muffle some of nature’s noises outside that keep you awake.

Campers often pack their gear and head into nature to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. But when they get out there they find noisy or crowded campgrounds at their destination.

You never know who your temporary outdoor neighbors might be, including chattering wildlife. You can get ahead of this frustration by packing helpful sleep accessories such as earplugs, a portable white noise machine, an eye mask, or a travel fan to block distracting sights and sounds.

2. Reconfigure Your Setup

Trouble sleeping while camping can affect car campers, backpackers, and RV campers alike. No matter where you are, make sure the area allows you to nap at an ideal temperature with plenty of shade and fresh airflow.

You may need to put a great deal of thought and consideration into the spot you choose. Pack up and move elsewhere if the area proves too difficult to overcome sleep issues.

3. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

The allure and enchantment of the great outdoors can cause even those with strict bedtime schedules to forgo good sleep practices. This includes staying up late around the campfire or skipping snooze-inducing nighttime routines.

If you can’t sleep while camping, it may be caused by routine changes that go beyond just a change of scenery.

Sleep hygiene is as important, if not more so, while camping as it is at home. Good rest depends on whether you take the right steps well before your head hits your camping pillow.

4. Get plenty of exercise.

Camping and exercise often go hand in hand. It’s beneficial to do all you can to tire your body out during the daytime to get better sleep throughout the night. The more energy you expend while climbing, kayaking, swimming, and hiking, the easier it will be for your system to doze off at night. 

5. Stick to your bedtime.

It may be incredibly tempting to keep roasting s’mores long after you normally would have gone to bed. But deviating from your typical schedule can make it harder for you to doze when you finally retire to your sleeping bag.

Call it a night as close to your regular bedtime as possible to avoid a potentially restless night of lying awake.

6. Avoid artificial light.

After the sun goes down, the light from flashlights, lanterns, screens, headlamps, and other lighting gear can trick your brain into thinking you need to be alert and awake. Turning off these lights when it’s time to hit the hay will make it easier to fall asleep. You’ll also be able to witness and enjoy the glory of the starry night sky.

7. Prepare for the night.

Even if you’ve drifted off easily, nighttime disturbances such as temperature or humidity changes, and calls from Mother Nature may pull you out of restful sleep. Be sure you use the bathroom just before zipping up the tent for the evening. And for those nighttime chills, I always like to keep an extra blanket at the foot of my sleeping bag.

We all know that the concept of leaving no trace is important after you leave a campsite. This principle can be just as important for your comfort during your stay. Ensure that you secure your camp by locking away all food and trash. This will help ensure that you don’t have any nighttime visitors that would certainly disrupt your slumber.

How To Sleep Comfortably When Camping

Man resting in camping hammock

The difference between an unhappy camper and a happy one is often a matter of having the right gear for maximum comfort. Wondering how to get to sleep when camping without packing up your entire bedroom?

The right nighttime gear might be the answer.

  1. Sleeping Pad

Just as a high-quality mattress is crucial to good slumber at home, a high-quality sleeping pad is necessary if you can’t sleep while camping. The right one should provide plenty of cushion and help regulate your body temperature and movement so you don’t wake up sore, achy, or uncomfortable.

  1. Sleeping Bag

Check your sleeping bag of choice to make sure it’s rated for the weather and temperatures that await you at your camping destination. Ideally, your sleeping bag should supply enough insulation without leaving you too hot or cold during the night.

  1. Cot

Cots are a popular alternative (or addition) to sleeping pads. Camping cots keep you up off the ground and can be more comfortable for some campers than traditional air or foam mattresses. When I car camp, I use a cot with a 4 inch pad on top and sleep like I do at home!

  1. Hammock

If napping under the stars is your goal, but putting your temporary bed on the forest floor doesn’t sound appealing, a hammock is an excellent option. This allows you to enjoy the open air and view of the night sky without spending the night worrying about rolling off your sleeping pad onto the dew-covered ground.

  1. Tent

Some tents are better than others at sealing out moisture and humidity, regulating temperatures, and allowing fresh air to circulate throughout the night. Select a tent that will hold up in various weather conditions and keep pesky bugs away while you sleep. If you get really hot in the summer and cold in the winter when camping, consider a canvas tent. They tend to do a better job at regulating temperature than nylon tents.

Recommended: We Bought and Tested the Best Canvas Tents (Buyer’s Guide)

  1. Clothing

As you tuck hiking gear and swim trunks into your backpack for the weekend, look at the nighttime temperatures and pack appropriate pajamas. You should have enough options to add or remove layers to adjust to the temperature should you need to sleep a little hotter or cooler than you had anticipated. Start with a thin base layer of long johns, then add on from there as needed.

  1. Pillow

A camping pillow can go a long way in supporting good sleep posture and providing extra comfort and coziness. Inflatable pillows, fillable rucksacks, and designated camping pillows are all excellent solutions that don’t take up too much extra space in your gear bag. I find that if you sleep with a soft pillow at home, then try an inflatable pillow or bag stuffed with clothes while camping, you probably won’t sleep well. I try to simulate my bed at home while camping as much as possible.

How Do You Get a Good Night Sleep in a Tent?

Car camping and backpacking are ideal for those who don’t own an RV or trailer but still want to spend a few nights immersed in the natural world. Tent camping can be equally exciting and relaxing, but if you just can’t sleep while camping in a tent, you may need to make a few modifications to your arrangement.

Setting Up Your Tent

When choosing a campsite, make sure the area where you stake your tent is level. Also ensure it’s free from any rocks, branches, or bumps that could disturb your slumber.

Confirm that the spot is relatively away from loud noises like roads, streams, or rowdy neighbors. Although, I personally enjoy sleeping near a stream or river, as it drowns out other sounds like scurrying animals or the neighbor’s generator.

Laying Out Your Gear

As soon as your tent is set up, unroll your bag, inflate your mattress, assemble your cot, and lay down any extra blankets you have. Make sure your sleeping arrangements create a clear pathway for campers who need to go to the bathroom during the night. This will provide a good night’s sleep for others in the tent.

Sealing Your Sleep Area

Bugs, moisture, wind, and creaking branches can cause frustrating trouble sleeping while camping. Pack plenty of bug spray or a mosquito net, and consider using the rain fly over your tent even if the forecast says clear skies.

Eliminate Trouble Sleeping While Camping

Spending the night in nature should be an enjoyable and comfortable experience. Camping can be incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating and help you appreciate the wonder of the great outdoors, whether the sun or the moon is in the sky above your site.

If you regularly can’t sleep while camping, keep in mind that the more comfortable you are, the more likely you may be to get out into the wilderness as often as you can. This can do wonders for your well-being.

It may take trial and error, but the right gear, routine, and environment can help you achieve the best away-from-home sleep you’ve ever had.

And if being too hot in your tent is your main problem, be sure and read this article on 13 Proven Ways to Keep a Tent Cool!