Aug 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm #1292748
@rhz10Locale: SF Bay Area
One of the things I love about this site is that I can ask questions on so many different topics and get such great answers. In that spirit, here's my latest concern:
What can I do to sleep more soundly while backpacking? I'm a light sleeper to begin with. I invested in a fairly comfortable mattress (neo air all season 25" wide), and I am reasonably warm when I sleep. I find that it takes a long time to fall asleep, and I wake up continually throughout the night. After a restless night, I wind up getting up too early and don't really feel as refreshed and well-rested in the morning as I'd like to.
Does anyone else experience this problem? Has anyone found a good solution?
rhzAug 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm #1901076
Try a sleep aid, Melatonin if you want something more natural. I also find two other things have helped me,
1] Ear Plugs or listening to music from iPod
2] Pulling my buff half way down my face to cover eyes at least.
That combination helps provide a cocoon that allows me to sleep better without unfamiliar sights/sounds.Aug 8, 2012 at 12:08 am #1901081
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I often don't sleep well for 1-2 nights in a new location. It could be a friend's couch, queen-sized bed in a hotel, or a thermarest in a tent. Then I get used to it – the background sounds, seeking the more comfortable sleeping positions unconsicously, etc. After a night or two, I'm sleeping well again.
Decades ago, I'd lead 9-day BPing trips. The first night or two felt like re-learning to sleep on a thermarest, although the timing got shorter on subsequent trips. It was like my brainstem relearned how to wiggle back onto the sleeping pad without my having to awake to do so.
Hiking long mileage days helps me sleep soundly.
In new hotels, I'll put find a record of white noise (search iTunes or youtube for "white noise" "hair dryer" "vacuum cleaner") on my phone or iPod. I admit it is the antithesis of a wilderness experience, but it works for me.Aug 8, 2012 at 3:07 am #1901093
@jephotoLocale: New Zealand
I would suggest practising at home for a few nights before you go. Even if it is inside the house. You could also try a couple of Tylenol before bed.
I wouldn't suggest using any sleep aids unless you have trailed them at home first.
I once read an article where the writer described how when backpacking he would go to sleep when it got dark and would then wake naturally at some time between twelve and 2. He would then stay awake for 1-2 hours beforegoing back to sleep until dawn. He suggested that this sleep pattern was more in-line with those of our ancestors.
I also find that pulling a hat down over my eyes helps.Aug 8, 2012 at 9:06 am #1901157
go till yr at yr physical limit and you wont have any issue sleeping ;)Aug 8, 2012 at 9:14 am #1901158
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
The only insomnia I have experienced is from not being comfortable. Sleeping in a hammock ( up to 12 hours straight) has made my outings quite restful. It isn't for everyone or for every place, but worth a try in my opinion.Aug 9, 2012 at 5:01 am #1901348
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
I find that a combination of an hammock (no roots or rocks to wake me when I fall off the pad in the middle of the night; no way to cause a gap with my underquilt to make me cold; nice and cool underneath me through convection on hot nights so's I'm not sweltering in a tent with no airflow as I hide from the flying hypodermic needles) and doing something all day long (hiking, biking, swimming, etc.) puts me to sleep like a baby.
I don't tend to sleep as long as I do at home (I can sleep for ten or twelve hours, given the chance, in my bed; out in the woods, I usually wake at dawn), but I go to bed earlier and sleep better (feeling more rested when I wake). I don't know if it's due to the hammock, the exercise (might be, but I occasionally do that at home, too, and haven't noticed a difference), or the "fresh" air (try FL in August; it ain't all that cool and crisp), but the woods help me sleep better.
It may work for you; it may not. Either way, an hammock can be had for ~$40 or so and is worth a try in my opinion. As to the "all-day PT" thing, well, that's a little harder to do…but it's worth it, and not just for the sleep.
YMMV, though.Aug 9, 2012 at 5:02 am #1901349
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
Odd; it took me to the Checkout screen rather than the response posted screen…Aug 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm #1901568
1) Get some help from the terrain by choosing a soft spot with the ideal shape to it. I like a dip for my butt/back to fit into and then it being a little higher under my legs and head/shoulders.
2) As you spend more time in the backcountry you'll sleep better simply because you'll be more at ease.
3) FWIW, I find the Exped Synmat UL7 a bit more comfortable than the NeoAir. I like having the baffling running head to foot rather than side to side.
4) Make a decent pillow with your clothes, soft water bottle, shoes under the top of your pad etc.Aug 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm #1901570
I have bad allergies so I usually take benadryl to the back country with me. It helps with my allergies and knocks me out at night IF I'm having trouble falling asleep. I also have a cushy synmat pad which helps.Aug 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm #1901578
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Early in my backpacking career I definitely had problems sleeping. I would toss and turn through out the night I would be up late into the morning hours. So everybody has different sleeping habits and this works for me-two solutions: Hike at least 15 miles or more and you will sleep like baby. Second take Tylenol PM and you will get plenty of sleep for sure. I take Tylenol PM only if needed.Aug 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm #1901580
I seem to wake up regularly throughout the night when I'm out as well – I like to pretend its just a throw back to a past life when I had to keep waking up to stoke the campfire :)
Actually, I tend to be a poor sleeper even at home so I can't offer much in the way of advice other than not to stress about it. Tossing and turning and punching the pillow makes it worse.
Usually I'll sit up and read until I can't keep my eyes open any longer and always try to remember that when my body really needs me to sleep I will.
As far as nodding off in the first place, lots of good advice above. MP3 player works wonders for my GF.Aug 10, 2012 at 9:31 am #1901643
I never sleep well in the backcountry but am fine car camping. I always attribute it to altitude. Even though I live at 8600' (and sleep fine at home), when backpacking I'm usually sleeping 2-3K higher. I'm perfectly comfortable (2.5" DAM) and warm and usually very tired. Doesn't matter. I have the same trouble on hut trips (most huts out here are over 11K). The only thing that works for me is 2 Advil PMs in the evening. But there's a tradeoff. Not sleeping much doesn't seem to have any effect on me and it definitely does at home. I feel good and ready to go in the morning. If I take the PMs, I feel groggy and slow when I wake up. But I'd rather (barely) deal with that then lie awake a good portion of the night. I have may have to try one of the natural sleep aids like Randy suggested and see if that's any better. Next time I'm near a store that carries them, I'll pick some up.Aug 10, 2012 at 9:49 am #1901647
@dangLocale: Pacific Northwet
I use this stuff and it works pretty good:
main ingredient is mellatonin but it's combined with a couple of other natural ingredients that in combination seems to work really good. One thing about this stuff is they say you can take it anytime, even in the middle of the night like when you wake up and can't get back to sleep and it does not make you groggy in the morning.Aug 10, 2012 at 11:50 am #1901679
Thanks for the tip Daniel. I thought it was going to be a health foods store type item and we don't have any close by. But it shows it at supermarkets so I might have a chance to test it this weekend.Aug 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm #1901687
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Melatonin might be more effective for other types of sleep issues, such as delayed sleep disorder or sleep disorders affecting circadian rhythm.
The most common melatonin side effects include:
Other, less common melatonin side effects might include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and short-lasting feelings of depression.
In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with various medications, including:
Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants)
Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)
Birth control pills
If you're considering taking melatonin supplements, check with your doctor first — especially if you have any health conditions. The correct dose depends on the intended use. For example, circadian rhythm sleep disorders are often treated with 0.5 milligrams of melatonin a day, while doses of 3 to 5 milligrams a day might be used to treat jet lag or reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. In addition, remember that melatonin is generally recommended only for short-term use — up to two months. Some research indicates that longer term use might be appropriate in certain cases, however.
If you take melatonin, choose commercial supplements produced in a lab. Melatonin supplements made from animal sources might contain various contaminants. Don't engage in activities that require alertness — such as driving or operating heavy machinery — for four to five hours after taking melatonin.Aug 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm #1901692
@dangLocale: Pacific Northwet
One thing I forgot to add about the midnite stuff, I've tried just plain mellatonin in the past and never really got very good results with it, but this stuff seems to work much better. Something about the combination of the ingredients.
It's not a miracle pill or anything but worth trying.
The last time I bought it was at Target.Aug 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm #1901718
I tend to sleep light in the bush as well, though extremely heavily in the comfort of my own bed. Sounds and touch instantly wake me. I have used ear plugs and eye shades, as others have recommended, and then set my wristwatch alarm to buzz mode. But I have found a long day's journey is tiring enough that these are unnecessary. Beginning the hike pre-dawn and ending hours post-dusk tires the body to the point of comatose slumber. I've heard of hikers carrying prescription-strength sleeping pills just to stay asleep despite the normal outdoors racket. So from my experience it's not the comfort or chill that wakes the average hiker, but the unfamiliar noises that invoke a kind of primal alertness.Aug 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm #1901793
@obi96Locale: Deep in the Green Mountains
I upgraded from 4 season therma rest to an exped 9 w/ down which I use all year. I have zero pressure point problems now. I find a good pillow (stuff sack w/ clothes) and "macks" silicone ear plugs a combination that works great for me. EXCEPT in bear country,
I always have trouble sleeping with them in the area.Aug 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm #1901799
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
I think we have just re-proved that sleep styles are pretty individual, like shoe fit or pack fit!
I always have trouble sleeping the first night of a trip because I'm so excited to hear the night sounds (owls, coyotes, elk, etc.) or just "the sound of silence" instead of the noises of suburbia. There's also a heightened awareness of my surroundings that keeps me alert. After the first night, though, I usually sleep pretty soundly. At my age I usually have to get up and exit the tent 2-3 times during the night, but I go back to sleep quite promptly.
You might consider a different pad, as suggested. I never could get comfortable on a NeoAir (I tried for about 4 months before returning it), and it's possible that you might find a pad with longitudinal tubes more comfortable. However, it doesn't really sound as though the pad or your sleeping bag or cold are issues for you. Try the suggestions mentioned above, like ear plugs, an ipod or melatonin.
One of the best ways to ensure insomnia, I've found, is to lie there worrying about not getting enough sleep! One argument for bringing along some reading material is that when that happens, I turn on your headlamp and read a bit. That gets my mind off any worries. Something relatively soothing (soporific is probably a better word!) is better for this purpose than exciting stories with lots of cliff-hangers.Aug 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm #1902086
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
5 mg melatonin taken 30-45 minutes before your head hits the pillow.
–B.G.–Aug 13, 2012 at 9:39 am #1902291
"One of the best ways to ensure insomnia, I've found, is to lie there worrying about not getting enough sleep!"
I tried the Midnite Sleep Saturday night. I did what for me is a tough hike and was definitely worn out. I took 2 about an hour before I went to sleep and another right before. I went to sleep pretty quickly after a little reading. I toss and turn a lot and I did wake up briefly when I did so, but went back to sleep quickly. Woke up feeling good. So while it wasn't like sleeping at home, it was a big improvement.Aug 13, 2012 at 11:02 am #1902317
…Aug 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm #1904679
@klagsLocale: Northeast USA
Three things to suggest. Besides the obvious idea to hike farther and longer before setting up camp – typically hikers should be up with the morning light or before, hiking long days, then going to sleep out of necessity, but you probably already do this. However it is really hard for some people to sleep in a new or unfamiliar place, which happens to me as well. Maybe this is your problem? It happens when camping, when in a hotel, when in someone's bed that you've never slept before, etc. When you find yourself in that situation only three things will help. 1 – repetition, doing it until you get used to it. 2 – camping next to running water to create white noise and let your mind stop thinking about all the little sounds around you. 3 – xxx
DeletedMar 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm #1961033
I'm also a light sleeper who struggles with the issue. The Big Agnes Q-core 3.5" pad is the most comfortable thing I've EVER slept on camping, bar none. Thermarest doesn't make anything that compares, in my experience. The biggest one (25 inches wide) weighs around 36 ounces, sacrilege to some here perhaps, but it sure is comfortable. I think they've come out with a lighter version now as well.
Getting used to earplugs helps me tremendously. If I really have insomnia, I get up and read for a while and try to sleep again late.Being really exhausted helps but that's not really a strategy for sleeping, is it? Best of luck!
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