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A good night's sleep
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Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 11:36:38 MDT Print View

In the past year I have spent close to 30 nights in the backcountry and on not one of them have I gotten a descent nights sleep. I have tried different pads - the Nightlight, Torsolight, and Threrm-a-Rest Prolite 3. I've tried taking different meds - Tylonal PM, Benadryl, Melatonin, and Wisky (not together of course.) No luck. I allways wake up serveral times during the night.

Do you sleep solid through the night when in the backcountry? What's your secret?

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 12:16:48 MDT Print View


Of the pads you’ve tried which one was more comfortable?

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 12:28:26 MDT Print View

There are hundreds that swear by hammocks as the ultimate in comfort. My hammocking has only gone as far as the backyard, but it's something you may want to look into. You could also look into one of those super-cush down air mattresses that are about a foot thick, used by backcountry stuntmen. For me, I've never had a problem with a basic thin pad for mostly stomach sleeping, so that's what I use. It's usually other details that get in the way.

One, not being tired enough to go to bed. If I try to go to sleep earlier than I really biologically feel like it, I end up frustrated and restless. I like to keep occupied with some reading, writing, or listening until my eyelids go half-mast. Long days of walking also help wear me out, but that's more of a style element.

Two, temperature and moisture. It takes some practice and luck to forecast my clothing needs for an entire night of sleep, but having breathable, easily adjusted sleeping gear can make a big difference. I'd choose a sleeping bag you can get body parts in and out of easily, and that will keep you at the temperature you like to sleep at. Quilts fit well here, or use a sleeping bag that ventilates well when needed. As for clothing, it needs to not get clammy and be easy to take off or adjust without waking up too much. Hoods, hats, gloves, and scarves are easy to adjust. Pants, not so much. You can also bring clothing inside the bag without wearing it, just to add a thin layer.

Three, aches and pains. A good session of stretching at the end of the day works wonders for me. There's no reason to not do it. It will keep you flexible, keep the soreness at bay, and you won't tighten up as much overnight. You'll be able to adjust to a variety of different positions more easily. If absolutely needed, add your mild painkiller of choice.

Four, noise. Earplugs can be miracle-workers.

Five, food and water. Typical signs like racing heartbeat, headache, thirst, wooziness, restlessness are a tip-off. There's an element of timing here. I like to drink all I can when I've stopped, get rid of all I can before I go to bed. I notice that my heartrate will remain at a slightly elevated level if I haven't had sufficient water, salts, carbs, etc. to replace and replenish at the end of the day.

Hope that helps a bit.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 16:38:56 MDT Print View

The first time I got a full night sleep in the back country was when I was using the combination of an insulated air mattress and a down quilt. The quilt made it easy to adjust temp so I wasn't too hot or too cold. The insulated air mattress provided the right about of cushion and insulation. Now that it is possible, I find four things which effect getting through the night:

1) Thermal Comfort. I need to be in the "zone" for the insulation I am using. Much of the year I am using a ghost quilt. In temps from 40-70 I can sleep through the night. When it's colder of warmer I tend to wake up unless I change something.

2) Moisture management. I seem to sweat more than some people. If I feel sticky, I have a harder time getting to sleep. A bath (ideally in a nature hotspring) helps this. Also what clothing I am wearing impacts this.

3) Enough food/water. If I am not well hydrated or didn't eat enough dinner I will wake up cold and hungry.

4) Pain meds. Generate don't need them.. but sometimes my joints hurt. I have found aleve helps when nothing else does. Medically effectiveness of aleve requires a loading dose of 2 pills to the it started.

Edited by verber on 10/12/2005 16:48:09 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 17:23:51 MDT Print View


first rule, use the minimum amount of "drug"/medicine needed to alleviate the condition. however, if the pain is ever worse than usual, you might try adding one or two extra-strength tylenol into the mix with the aleve/naproxin or (NOT 'and') iubuprofen/motrin. while tylenol is NOT a NSAID and so will not assist in alleviating the joint inflamation, it will work synergistically with the Aleve as far as pain relief/perception is concerned. since these two drugs are in different classes, acting differently in/upon the body, they can be safely mixed - each without reducing their normal, separate doses. this is actually a not uncommon medical practice (used in some cases to supplement narcotic pain relief in the Hospice, Pain Therapy, and Oncology fields) - just ask your Doc.

[sidebar info: NSAID = Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug - aleve, IB, and aspirin are NSAIDs,as are the newer COX-II (cox-2) inhibitors (VIOXX, Celebrex, etc) - and shouldn't be mixed in full doses of each. possible digestive, bleeding, and renal issues from long term use/overuse. i won't go into details, check with your Doc. tylenol too should not be overused - has effects upon the liver.]

Edited by pj on 10/13/2005 02:27:27 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: A good night's sleep on 10/12/2005 21:02:07 MDT Print View

Bob G:

Almost any sleep problem in the backcountry can be fixed once you identify the cause. However, be advised that most folks wake up several times a night when sleeping outdoors. It has to do with a higher level of attentiveness and generally longer times in the sack. It is the habit of old woods hands to take the opportunity to star gaze, take a whiz, listen to the critters, and so on. Occasional wakefulness is a good part of the outdoor experience for many.

However, if you are experiencing fatigue -- if it is a real problem, then perhaps something else is going on.

Are you waking up because of the pad, or are you becoming wakeful, then finding that the pad becomes the focus of your attention? If so, you might consider: Do you drink caffeine after noon? Your bod may react differently in the woods - different exercise, different food. Is the wakefullness related to muscle or joint pain? If so consider drugs (ref. previous posts). You said you had no success with Benadryl or its clones. Too bad.

IF you are sure the problem is only your choice of pad, then consider: What is the exact nature of your discomfort? For example:
a. feeling the ground through the pad;
b. cold;
c. unaccustomed stress on lower back (if lying on back) or tork of the lower back (if lying on side).

If a or b, the obvious answer is more pad or more careful choice of bed. There is a big difference between forest duff and uneven bare ground, and no reasonable pad will fix a bad location.

If *c*, consider modifying a pad to create contours for your hips, to support the lower back. Experiment with additional padding under your waist or the small of your back (depending on how you sleep) and perhaps under the thighs. The waist/back pad may need as much as 1.5 inches to feel OK. Done right, you can think you are on a perfect mattress in the honeymoon suite. Once you get the pad location(s) right you can glue it down or glue on a Velcro patch (loop only). If you like self inflating pads, consider using a Therm-a-rest pillow for the waste pad -- if it is thick enough for you. It's about right for some folks. If you need a more custom fit, just glue up enough closed-cell foam pieces to get the support that works.

Incidentally, the reason for adding padding under the thighs is to keep them from levering your pelvis and stressing the lower back with lying on the back. This is not a problem for everyone. The *perceived* effect is to create a hip hole. Old woods hands used to dig out a hip hole as part of making the bed. You can still do that some places. Try it. But renaturalize it before leaving.

Alex Orgren
(big_load) - F
Re: A good night's sleep on 10/13/2005 00:10:36 MDT Print View

I'm a bony side-sleeper with a proclivity for camping on hard ground. The Big Agnes Insulated Air Core mattress has made a huge difference for me. I would expect similar products would do just as well.

I still haven't figured out what to do about my other sleep problem: waking up in response to every little animal sound.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
a good nights sleep - plan for next time on 10/13/2005 09:22:40 MDT Print View

I am a side sleeper and mainly used the 3/4 NightLight pad bump side down. When I woke up, my hips would often be sore. So I figured it was the pad that was causing me to wake up. I recently purchased the BMW Torsolite to alleviate this problem. I used it this past weekend in the Shenandoah and was exited for a blissful night of sleep. However, I ended up having one of the worst nights of sleep in recent memory -- but not because of the pad. The pad one fine and I didn't have any pain in my hips.

I believe the main reason for my restlessness was three fold: 1) My head was not properly supported. I use my extra clothes in the stuff sack as a pillow and they get compressed throughout the night so I start with a nice pillow and end up with almost nothing. The Torsolite exaggerated this problem because it is so thick and the pillow sits on the ground. 2) Heightened awareness. I would wake up at any little sound. This was also only my third solo trip. I think sleeping alone in the woods puts me a little more on guard. 3) I went to bed way too early. With the nights getting longer, it gets dark at 7 PM but I usually go to bed at 11 PM. Being alone there wasn't much to do so I just went to sleep.

This is my plan for next time:
1) Stay with the Torsolite as I believe it alleviates hip pain when sleeping on my side. 2) Put shoes in a bag and use that as a pillow. It won't be soft but it will be supportive. 3) Wear ear plugs so I don't wake up at every little sound, 4) Go to bed at my usuall bed time - 11 PM.

- Bob

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: a good nights sleep - plan for next time on 10/13/2005 10:15:42 MDT Print View

I think most of it is just due to the vastly different environment. My guess is, if you were out for a week or longer... after the first few days... you'd start to sleep better... no matter what pad you used. For me, I find the confines of a sleeping bag take a few nights to get used to. I'm used to being able to splay out in all directions if I want and take up an entire queen sized bed... lol. Sound also bothers me... I can't sleep in a rain storm. So ear plugs help.

I have a question... is it possible to sleep on your front in a hammock?!?! I love the idea... but I'm a front sleeper. I do a lot of yoga... so I'm very flexible... very flexible spine... but still!!! I can't see it being comfortable on your front :(

Edited by davidlewis on 10/13/2005 14:48:54 MDT.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: a good nights sleep - plan for next time on 10/13/2005 10:49:52 MDT Print View

Bob G: Glad you have a plan together. Head support is a good one, I should have put that at number six for my list. Like you decided, I also keep my head on my shoes. I usually lap my sleeping pad over the shoes, or put a bag full of soft gear on top. Either way helps keeps the smell down... a little. Good luck.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: a good nights sleep - plan for next time on 10/14/2005 18:49:59 MDT Print View

> have a question... is it possible to sleep on your front in a hammock?

I've done it in a Hennessy Hammock. Reason is that by sleeping diagonally in this hammock you aren't sleeping on the curve, but instead are sleeping mostly flat. I'm a front sleeper and have slept front-down in my HH, although I do find it more comfortable sleeping on my side.

Best sleep I've had is in my Hennessy Hammock. I wake up (cold, but that's another post) and don't have any back/neck pain, while others are moaning their way out of their tents.

I recently spent four nights on a Gossamer Gear ThinLight 1/8" pad (for warmth, not much padding) with a torso-length Z-Rest on top. My shoulders ached, as usual on the ground, so I resorted to taking an Aleve before bed. It made quite a difference. I picked up a BMW TorsoLite, and it feels like my old Thermarest when I lay on concrete--I haven't tried it in the field yet. I'm willing to carry a few ounces more if it will help me sleep better at night. The GG ThinLight + BMW TorsoLite seems like the best setup for me (at least until I solve my cold-weather problems in the hammock).

Katherine Kane
(kekane) - F
tarp factor on 11/09/2005 16:50:22 MST Print View

Bob, sweet dreams next time out.

I've had trouble sleeping through the night too, but for me it's been the over-vigilance, wigging out being in the woods phenomenon. Though it seems to be subsiding with each trip I take (and as I fine tune the secondary comfort factors).

I plan to switch from my heavy 2-wall tent to a tarp soon, primarily for weight reasons, but I also have a theory that the openess of a tarp will put me more at ease. Just wondering if anyone else has experienced this?

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: tarp factor on 11/10/2005 09:27:12 MST Print View

"theory that the openess of a tarp will put me more at ease. Just wondering if anyone else has experienced this?"

Yep. A tarp lets you see what that furtive rustling really is -- a sneaky carnivore, a chipmunk gnawing into your food bag, a Bowie knife wielding psycho, beetles playing under the leaves, whatever. You can only adjust to woods sounds if you can truth-check them, and a tarp lets you do that.

And you don't have to cut your way out of your tent if a bear should happen to appear in the door as happened to a couple of friends of mine. When they went out the back of the tent, the bear got scared and ran the other way. So much for one tent. They were eating cookies, not sharing, and deserved it.