All about better sleeping on the trail in a sleeping bag
Note that Sleeplessness is the number 1 complaint of backpackers.
Sleeping bag should allow sleeping in the same temperature as what you're accustomed to at home - so you may need to purchase a different bag for your trip if your "old standby" sleeping bag is for a different temperature range than what it is outside when you will be backpacking. Use earplugs if you use them at home. Use pillow with pillowcase. Make bed as familiar to your bed at home as possible. Getting a thicker sleeping pad may also help make the sleeping bag seem more like a mattress in a real bed. Use eyeshades if it helps, or if it's cold, pull up your neck "gaitor" over your face and eyes to keep your face warm, and the light (or moonlight) out. Also might be useful to wear a hooded garment or a cap to retain bodyheat of the head.
Also following your usual "bedtime routine" can be helpful. It has been said that our daily sleep/awake cycles or circadian rythems are set over the course of several months, hence we need to accomodate those cycles with our bedtime routine. Timing of attempting to sleep is important. If reading before sleep to make your eyes tired is part of the pattern, then bring a headlamp and read, or sit around and star gaze or write in a journal before you sleep.
One should also go to bed "warm". If you go to bed cold, you'll stay cold for a while which will impede your going to sleep while your body heat is transferred to the sleeping bag insulation and pillow. If necessary, do some exercise to heat up your body. Wear dry clothing, and don't overdress in the sleeping bag.
Avoid caffine and alcohol in the hours near bedtime, otherwise you might wake up after a couple of hours with a headache, and feeling dehydrated. Also don't go to bed dehydrated or feeling thirsty, you want to make up water lost during the day, so drink to get back to a properly hydrated state, and have a water bottle near your sleeping bag. Remember that feeling "normal" will allow you to sleep.
Some suggest that sleeping with long sleeved cotton tshirt and boxers and socks on will help you sleep better.
Some people suggest camping out in your back yard the night before you go camping to acclimate to the tent sleeping.
Choose tentmates carefully if sharing a tent, or sleep solo away from the rest. Keep a headlamp or flashlight close- by and handy. Prepare for late night bathroom trips by putting shoes where they can be easily found.
Some people like a 30 minute stroll just before bed to stretch out sore muscles from the days' activity.
Hang food and perfumed toiletries up in a tree 300 feet from your campsite, so you won't need to worry about the risk of attracting large carnivores, which will normally just leave you alone if they don't smell those things close to your tent. Also don't sleep in clothes that smell like food or have food spilled on them and don't be sloppy with food around the campsite. Don't spit out toothpaste near your tent or campsite or you'll attract critters.
Small creepy, crawley or annoying flying creatures such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, gila monsters, mosquitoes, and flys can be kept away from you by sleeping in a tent with a bug screen rather than in a sleeping bag under the stars.
PIck a flat, campsite without big rocks under the tent. You don't want to be sliding down to one side of the tent all night long. A grassy spot or sandy spot among pines is not a bad choice. When the moon is a full moon, you might want the shade of a tree to block the brightness, or it may illuminate your tent and make it difficult to sleep. Some people like "white-noise", such as a babbling stream, others find the constant noise to be a distraction. If you are camping at high elevation, you could suffer altitude effects, for which you may want to compensate for if possible.
Put your mind into a "relaxed" state, and clear your brain of worries, tension, make your brain let go of all your tension or things that are bothering you. Maybe Stargaze and chat with others to relax before your bedtime.
Stop hiking and eating at least 3 hours before bedtime, and don't take a nap. Dehydrated milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid which aids the natural production of melatonin in the body. Can be combined with caffine free chocolate cocoa.
Taking some aspirin, Ibuprofin, or advil shortly before bedtime may likely help due to body stress from the days hiking "wear and tear" on the body. This could be especially important if you are not in top physical condition, because most of us will be physically suffering from the first night out soreness, aches and pains from several hours of hiking with 40 pounds on our back. Melatonin may or may not help, it is best for jet lag purposes.
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Last Update: April 17, 2015
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