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The Best 14 Tips to Sleep Well While Camping

Sleep hard, climb harder with these handy camping snoozing tips.

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So you made it out of town. You’re exhausted from the workweek, but that’s already miles away. As you enter the woods, you begin to visualize your project—the move from the thin, razor-sharp crimp, the gaston to the sloper, the pogo to the jug. Your palms start to sweat.

But first, sleep. And this part is important because you want to feel physically and mentally ready for tomorrow. 

Below, find 14 tips for snoozing better in the woods, so that you can send harder the next day. 

Ready Your Station

Pick your site carefully.

You wouldn’t sleep on top of a woodpile, so why would you expect to get good sleep on rough, uneven ground covered with branches and twigs? Take the time to find a level, wind-sheltered campsite free of rocks and sticks, and you’ll find yourself naturally relaxing more.

[Also Read: First Look: Sea To Summit’s Ether Light XT Extreme Sleeping Pad]

Have the right gear.

Buy a sleeping pad, a proper sleeping bag, and a good pillow. If you’ll be camping somewhere cold, try adding a sleeping bag liner to your kit as well. It’s important to stay warm—your body temperature shifts just before bed as a part of its natural circadian rhythm. It will drop throughout the night until reaching a low point around 5 a.m. If you’re too cold before bed, this will disrupt the body’s natural cycles, and make it difficult to fall asleep. 

[Also Read: Climbing Holiday Gift Guide: Kammok Thylacine Sleeping Bag System]

Have a light on hand.

The outdoors can get dark. Like really dark. Having a headlamp or flashlight handy can help you get settled in, and will be useful should you need to get up in the night. 

Prep for rain.

If it’s going to rain, make sure your tent is properly sealed off and your belongings are in a place where water won’t pool. If you’re sure it won’t rain, then sleep better without the tent fly. You’ll be able to see the stars, and you’ll wake up without the condensation. 

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During the Day

Hydrate.

Dehydration will disturb sleeping patterns, and trying to make up for it right before bed will create its own set of problems (since getting up in the middle of the night is never fun). Staying hydrated throughout the day and reducing fluid composition an hour or two before bed will help you sleep through the night. 

Don’t nap after 3 p.m.

The temptation to plop down under a tree and have a snooze can be overpowering. Sometimes that’s OK, but sometimes it could impact your sleep later. A short (one hour or less) catnap can perk you up, but doing it too late in the day diminishes your natural sleep drive, leaving you too alert at bedtime.

Stop climbing three hours before bed.

“Exercise itself should help bring sleep, but not if you’re active right up to bedtime,” says Dr. Thomas Reilly of Liverpool John Moores University. Why? Exertion releases the stimulating hormone cortisol. Unless you’re really trying to squeeze every hour out of the day, give yourself some time to unwind by cooking, reading a book, or just enjoying the sunset.

man sleeps in tent
Reading a book while sipping on tea helps to prep for sleep. (Photo: Getty Images)

Leading up to Bedtime

Do your normal routine.

Routine is king when it comes to sleeping well. Your body’s sleep/wake rhythms stick to a regular schedule, and it’s very difficult to shift them for a night or two. So don’t skip out on your normal before-bed activities, and try to go to bed at the usual time.

Take care of your skin.

Prepare yourself for a full day of climbing by applying skin creams and lotions to splits, flappers, or raw tips. Knowing your fingers are primed for the climb may just give you the peace of mind needed to slip into a slumber.

climbers on portaledge
If you’ve been climbing all day and hope to go hard again tomorrow, prepping your skin is especially important.

If you can’t stop thinking about you project, pick up a journal.

Try drawing a route map or writing down your beta. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a page will help you feel calmer and more confident on the route. In a paper, Effects of Expressive Writing on Neural Processing During Learning, published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the authors suggested that writing about anxiety-inducing events (which, we all know that projecting can be) frees up mental space. Writing may even help you recover faster, as a 2013 study on expressive writing suggested. In the study, groups of subjects wrote three times daily following medically necessary biopsies. One group wrote about upsetting events, while a second wrote more generally about daily activities. 11 days after the initial three days of writing, 76 percent of the group that wrote about upsetting events had fully healed, as compared with 42 percent of the other group. 

[Also Read: Why Climbers Should Journal]

Eat and Drink for Sleep

Give yourself three hours to digest dinner

A full belly can disrupt slumber. But a light snack sometimes helps, advises Mary Susan Esther, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Almonds are a good before-bed snack. They contain magnesium, which has been shown to improve sleep quality. Tart cherry juice has also been shown to aid in sleep quality. Plus, it’s high in antioxidants. 

[Also Read: Muscles Sore After Training Or Climbing? Cherry Juice Could Help.]

Try melatonin if you really can’t get to sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body in response to darkness. It is considered safe to supplement, but ask your medical professional before doing so.

Alternative, try herbal tea.

Look for teas with valerian root, which has been shown to improve sleep quality and help people fall asleep faster. Additionally, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm have each been shown to help restless sleepers. 

Enjoy the Ambiance

Remember to appreciate the outdoors.

Going outside to climb is a privilege. Remember that, while sending the proj can be rewarding, it’s just a small part of the process. Being in nature, seeing friends, and trying hard—those are all opportunities to relax and enjoy, and they should be cherished. A study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research discussed how taking moments of gratitude helps people sleep better and longer.