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Ben Wortman
(bwortman)

Locale: Nebraska
Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 10:32:47 MST Print View

One of the more difficult things that I encounter on a backpacking trip is getting a good night’s sleep, especially on the 1st few nights. After that, I am usually so exhausted that I basically just pass out. My personal problem is a combination of a few things. I live at about 500 ft, and when I backpack in the 9,000 – 11,000 ft range, I’m sure my system is just getting used to the altitude. I also wake up a lot in the night when there are unusual sounds happening outside the tent. I am not waking up afraid of bears or Sasquatches, but just the normal nighttime sounds tend to wake me up. I think I have also had problems sleeping due to the fact that I have used a mummy cut sleeping pad, and when I turn over in my sleep, I either roll off, or it feels so narrow that I wake up because I am trying to make sure I don’t fall off. This year I am going to try a few new things:
1. Try a long wide pad. This should help with the comfort and not falling off deal
2. Try ear plugs. I have slept with earplugs several times while car camping and it seems to help. I have been reluctant to do this when backpacking, thinking that I might not hear something that I should be aware of outside my tent.

What are some of your tricks that help you sleep better on the trail?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 10:47:52 MST Print View

There are two things that impact me. Sore hips with a foam pad the first couple of nights (I am a side sleeper) and getting cold. Cold requires the proper sleep system for the conditions, and a balaclava of appropriate material for the conditions has mitigates most of this for me as I use quilts. A TorsoLite or small ProLite are better as pads for me, but for truly great sleep I am finding a regular NeoAir fits the bill. As a side sleeper I do change sides during the night, but have never fallen off it. Sometimes when I want to take a foam pad I sleep on it at home for a few nights prior to a trip to get my hips in shape.

Noise isn't an issue, but then I usually am not awaken by most California earthquakes.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 10:48:32 MST Print View

For me, a decent pillow makes a world of difference and I find the weight penalty to be well worth it. I recently picked up the exped air pillow and highly recommend it. Apparently there is also a montbell pillow that people seem to like, but I've never tried that one.

Regarding the pad.... I have a long wide pad as well as a short pad. The long wide one is definitely more comfortable, but I don't think it makes as much of a difference in my ability to get a goods nights sleep as the pillow does.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Dry side of the Eastern Sierra's
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 10:57:45 MST Print View

I struggle with the same issues. A larger mattress and earplugs help considerably. A nightcap doesn't hurt either! You could also adjust your nighttime rituals at home to match what you'll be doing in the outdoors. I find that staying up till 11 at home is detrimental to going to bed at 9 when it gets dark while camping.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 11:10:06 MST Print View

My main problems are sore hips and a too thin pillow.

At night I act sort of like a rotisserie, rotating through the night. If my pad is too thin (e.g. blue foam and similar) I wake up with sore hips that just keep getting worse. My current solution is a 13oz Thermarest Prolite short, but I am considering bringing an extra short, thin foam pad to place under my hips on hard ground. I slept about a dozen nights in Alaska campgrounds that had hard gravel tent sites and the Prolite was barely enough.

I further need my head propped up a fair amount or my neck starts bothering me. I currently just place everything I have in a stuff sack and use it for a pillow, but it still doesn't seem to be enough, partly because everything in the stuff sack gets packed down during the night. I'm not sure what I'll try next...

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 11:10:33 MST Print View

YMMV, of course, but for me:

1. CAREFUL site selection (so I'm not neither tilted nor sliding down the entire night)
2. comfy air pad, pillow, and an appropriately warm bag
3. NO coffee, and not too much water or alcohol the few hours before bedtime
4. ear plugs

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 11:13:14 MST Print View

"I further need my head propped up a fair amount or my neck starts bothering me. I currently just place everything I have in a stuff sack and use it for a pillow, but it still doesn't seem to be enough, partly because everything in the stuff sack gets packed down during the night. I'm not sure what I'll try next..."

Try this. It works for a lot of us, and if it works for you too, then that would be well worth its paltry 2.4oz. weight.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:15:28 MST Print View

I am usually so sleep deprived that backpacking is when I "recharge" and sleep really well. If at all possible, a hammock works for a lot of people, myself included. On the ground, a better pad, enough insulation.
I am curious about ear plugs; unless you are near a snorer, why ear plugs?

chris markley
(motorapido) - F
Hammock on 02/23/2012 11:20:05 MST Print View

Sleep like a baby in an ultralight hammock setup. Study up at hammockforums.net.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:20:06 MST Print View

"I am curious about ear plugs; unless you are near a snorer, why ear plugs?"

Wearing ear plugs is something I have never heard of doing. I don't get it. I enjoy the sounds of nature and they normally lullaby me to sleep. Why do people cut themselves off from the environment with all kinds of gadgets?

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Dry side of the Eastern Sierra's
Re: Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:28:00 MST Print View

Re: Earplugs

Sometimes it comes in handy when near a snorer. Most of the time it's to keep me from listening to the little mouse all night long jumping around in the grasses. I keep thinking it's a big bear trying to eat me. The earplugs quiet that fear of mine. I usually take them out around 3 and keep sleeping soundly till sun rise.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re Earplugs on 02/23/2012 11:34:24 MST Print View

I know a lot of folk who need them to sleep.
The problem here in Scotland is wind noise. Not the human kind. ;)
Novice campers can get worried during high winds, till they learn that the noisy tent isn't going to take off.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:36:39 MST Print View

I always wear ear plugs. Nothing worse than someone close by snoring.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:48:55 MST Print View

"I always wear ear plugs. Nothing worse than someone close by snoring."

Hmm... usually the only person with me is me. :)

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 11:55:30 MST Print View

"I enjoy the sounds of nature and they normally lullaby me to sleep. Why do people cut themselves off from the environment with all kinds of gadgets?"

Not everyone is lucky enough to be lulled by those sounds; some are kept awake by them (I know, I sleep with a chronic insomniac). For them, earplugs are helpful in falling asleep and using them is not a sign of failed character IMHO.

For me, regular sounds (like babbling brooks, steady wind, rain) are soothing, but irregular sounds (animal footsteps, leaf blowing across the tent, tentmate rolling over, etc.) catch my attention and make me alert. Maybe a side effect of using my ears for a living; same reason I can't ignore "background" Muzak.

Ben Wortman
(bwortman)

Locale: Nebraska
earplugs on 02/23/2012 11:59:58 MST Print View

Like others, I use earplugs to prevent the "what was that sound" in my head.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping better on 02/23/2012 12:05:06 MST Print View

Maybe a stint in the military would help... you can learn how to sleep in a Huey with the side doors open :)

Or living in a ghetto, you learn how to ignore and sleep through the noise of gun shots and police helicopters :)

And the above might give one an appreciation for good noises :)

Anyway, if they were to bother me I would try to condition myself. Now if an owl awakens me I want to sit up and watch it. Same goes for other animals. If a strong wind blows, I don't mind waking up, it alerts me to the fact I might want to check my gear. Since I rarely sleep in a shelter, I have many opportunities to watch things that go bump in the night.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F - M

Locale: British Columbia
Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 13:01:43 MST Print View

I do a lot of coastal backpacking and I find that nature along the coast can be a very noisy place! Some people find the sound of the surf relaxing but I find a heavy surf pounding at irregular intervals very disturbing (you can even feel it through the ground). At sun-up, seagulls, ravens, crows and squirrels come alive and really let you know it, so earplugs are a real advantage. I tend to sleep well if I can block out the noise and really hate getting up at sunrise.

I don't usually need earplugs when I'm on inland trips (nature is much quieter there).

What I find works well for me and may help the OP, is to take along a small MP3 player and use the tight fitting earbuds for headphones. These serve dual purpose for me because when I go to bed at night I'm restless from hiking and I'm also a late night guy so I find early to bed a hard thing when backpacking. I find music helps me relax and I fall to sleep quicker (make sure your MP3 player has an sleep timer shut-off).

When things get noisy at sun-up, I just stuff the earbuds back in my ears and use them as ear plugs (no music required).

I also find my large size Neoair the most comfortable pad to sleep on and makes rolling around (and falling off your pad) a non-issue. But being a gram counter, I tend to take my small Neoair on most trips to save weight and just roll over a little more carefully.

Edited by skopeo on 02/23/2012 15:39:12 MST.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 15:19:26 MST Print View

I struggle with a good night's sleep when camping too. I've made a few changes, so far, that seem to help, and I've got a few more to try still.

Things I've done:
- changed from mummy bag to quilts
- thicker air pad
- experimenting with different pillow options
- use ipod w/ ear buds to help fall asleep
- use tylenol pm or similar to try to help fall asleep

Switching to quilts has certainly made me more comfortable at night. Like someone else said, I too rotate around in my sleep like a rotissere. I kept getting caught up in the mummy bag with my face in the hood, etc. Or falling off my pad. Or just too cramped for space to spread out. Quilts, particularly the Katabatic Gear quilts, have solved these problems for me.

Switching to a thicker air pad has given me more comfort but my arms or a leg still often hang off the pad and my current NeoAir is just a little too short, so either my head or my feet don't get to be on the pad. I will be trying a size L NeoAir at some point in the future; probably hold out to try the Xtherm for next winter. I hope that the added length and width will work better for me.

I've also tried a lot of different pillows but so far haven't found a good solution. The air pillows haven't worked for me. Stuff sacks slide all over. I've got a different stuff sack now with a fuzzy fleece-like exterior. I'm hoping it's a more comfortable pillow... might try attaching it to my pad with velcro or cord too.

I'll take the weight penalty of a larger pad and some form of pillow if I can get a decent night's sleep!

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: Ways to sleep better on 02/23/2012 16:10:33 MST Print View

If it is quiet night, then I am usually okay until I unwind a bit. If it is windy then I play a dull podcast, such as Fresh Air or Bloomberg Business Report. That usually knocks me out.