A good night’s sleep is essential to a great day exploring the backcountry. However, far too many people spend too much time planning their daytime adventures and forget about prepping for how and where they’ll sleep. Before your next hiking trip or adventure in the wild, be sure you’ve got your nighttime ritual mapped out with these helpful tips and techniques.
Putting plenty of space between you and the ground is one of the most important moves you can make when getting a good night’s sleep. Rocks, twigs, and cold ground can keep you awake for hours. Purchase a comfortable, thick pad to place on the ground underneath your sleeping bag. It’ll provide not only cushioning, but also added warmth throughout the night. You’ll also want to bring along a high-quality sleeping bag that’s specifically tailored for the weather. It’s rare you’ll find one that works perfectly well in both summer and winter. There’s also the option of using a hammock. This way, you won’t be anywhere near the ground and can still get a great night’s rest in a comfortable position.
Maintain Your Sleep Schedule
Unless you work an odd schedule, your body is probably used to going to sleep at roughly the same time each night. If not, it should be. Don’t interrupt your body’s normal sleep cycle when out in the backcountry. Heading to sleep just one or two hours later than normal can throw off your body’s rhythm and ruin a good night’s rest. Instead, head to your tent or hammock at the same time you’d normally be heading to bed back home.
Things to Avoid
While coffee is great for keeping you going during a long workday, it’s something that should be left at home when you wander into the wild. Caffeine can have a negative impact on your sleep. Additionally, avoid eating anything within three hours of bedtime. Food can boost your energy level and make it more difficult to fall asleep. The same goes for alcohol.
Contrary to what your bedside clock might claim, the sounds of nature are not always an effective form of white noise. In fact, a lot of those natural sounds can be downright creepy in the middle of the night. Bring along a good pair of earphones that are designed to be slept in, or even a white noise machine. It might seem counterintuitive to bring along electronics on a backcountry trip, but it can help you sleep well in order to enjoy a distraction and exhaustion-free day of hiking.
Your Sleeping Spot
Choosing the right place to lie down for the night is essential to getting some good sleep. Avoid setting up camp on the side of a hill whenever possible. If that’s the only option, be sure to sleep with your head facing uphill. Blood rushing down to your brain is bad for sleep, and your health in general. Seek out a flat area free of hard rocks and debris. You’ll also want to avoid damp spaces. If you can’t find a good option on the ground, pull out a hammock and swing from the trees.
Utilize Sleep Aids
When all else fails, there’s no shame in using sleep aids. Sleeping pills are highly effective, but require a doctor’s prescription and should only be taken in low doses. Melatonin, on the other hand, is only effective in about fifty percent of users and only when you’re heading outside your normal time zone. While alcohol might seem like a good way to knock yourself out, it actually wreaks havoc on your sleep pattern and will leave you drowsy the following morning. Instead, opt for warm milk for a healthy dose of tryptophan, an amino acid that aids your natural sleep cycle.