After three years of sleeping with two adults and 3 dogs in a tiny little van, it is safe to say we have gotten quite good at it! We know not only how to scout out the best campsite but also how to get the best sleep once parked and ready.
We decided to pass on some words of wisdom for new vanpeople or to those who simply suffer from insomnia. These are our recommendations for those wondering how to fall asleep easily in a different city every night. Let’s face it, sleep deprivation can negatively affect every single aspect of your life. Sleep is something we take seriously. A lack of sleep can be a dangerous thing when living van life. When you are in close quarters with anyone for an extended period of time, a good night’s sleep will make it much smoother.
1. Don’t Fight Mother Nature
Your usual routine of staying up as late at night and sleeping in even later the next morning won’t fly in your camper. Instead, .you will find yourself adjusting to mother nature’s schedule. The best time to sleep may have been closer to midnight for you before, but when living in a camper, you will feel far more rested if you stick to the sun’s schedule.
Whether you are a full time RVer or are just going on a short camping trip, you are sure to find yourself running out of things to do when the sun goes down and being woken up early by the sun peeking through your windows.
This new sleeping schedule can be a bit of an adjustment and one you may not be willing to make – but trust us, going with it is much better than fighting it. Getting your body in tune with nature will help to make it so you have a good night’s rest. It will also help you to make the most of your day.
2. Find Flat Land
Finding even ground is likely something you have never thought about when in a car – that is until you are considering sleeping in your vehicle. You will know you are a true vanlifer when you find yourself always looking for the most even terrain to park on. You can cheat the system by bringing along a couple of short pieces of wood. If you find an ideal campsite but it’s not flat, you can drive up on the wood to level your rig.
Pro tip: If you are prone to snoring, finding level ground will do even more for your night’s sleep as you will be more comfortable inside and stomach sleeping.
While finding flat land is the dream, it isn’t always realistic. While you will want to aim to find as flat as possible, it is also important to consider the side where you are putting your head. If you can’t find perfectly flat ground, which you commonly can’t, you will want to make sure that the area where you put your head is at the slight incline. Having your head slightly higher will likely not bother you as much if you even notice a difference.
It is important to never find a position where your feet are higher. This will cause the blood in your body to pool in your head as you sleep and can be incredibly uncomfortable. If you are sleeping with another person in the car as we do, tilting to one side at an angle is also not ideal. With this, you will find yourself rolling into each other (and not in a good way) all night long.
We always keep a couple extra throw pillows in our van too so we can correct any problems we may feel. If we aren’t quite flat, a few strategically placed pillows can leave us much more comfortable.
3. Outfitting Your Van
To me, it is very important to get comfortable wherever I go. Whether I am staying in a hotel for a night or moving into a new home, I make sure to fully unpack all of my stuff to make myself feel as homey as possible. I think almost everyone can agree that they get the best sleep when they are at home so why not bring home with you wherever you go?
This is important no matter how long you are staying in your RV for. Bring your socks, duvet, pillows, throw pillows, sleep masks, essential oils, slippers, comfy pajamas, or anything else you enjoy using along with you. Make your camper feel just as cozy as your home does.
Being comfortable is important whether this is your home for a night or your home for life.
We see so many RVers using scratchy blankets or even sleeping bags as their bedding and we just don’t get it. There are so many things we bring with us to make it as comfortable as possible. We have our nice fleece sheets lining the bottom, a fluffy duvet on top and a whole whack of pillows everywhere. We drink our tea out of nice homey mugs and make sure to bring all of our creature comforts with us.
Check On Your Curtains
Darkness is very important for getting a good night’s sleep. This is especially important when you’re in a camper as you will have much more exposure to external light sources. No one wants to be woken up by headlights shining through your windows. If you have to sleep in a parking lot you’ll want to be able to park directly under lights without them shining into your eyes.
We would like you to learn from our mistakes and NOT outfit your van with super cute but thin blush curtains. Instead, go for something either a bit darker in color to block out the bright lights or line your curtains so that you can keep the sun (and the heat) out longer. If you have to have lighter curtains sew a thicker material onto the back so they have a better chance at blocking out unwanted light.
Invest In Screens
If there is one piece of advice we could scream from the rooftops it’s to invest in some screens for your tiny home! No matter what season you are traveling in, vans get HOT and even being able to crack your windows a tiny bit can do wonders for increasing your comfort levels. Being able to do this without being swarmed by bugs will give you a much better sleep.
In the hot summer months, we sleep with all our windows completely opened and the air flow between them is so welcomed. We do this even on cooler nights because with three dogs and two people, having some new fresh air be able to come in is always welcomed.
4. Bedtime Routines
We take bedtime routines seriously, probably due to our increase in age. Gone are the day’s where we launch ourselves into bed in yesterday’s clothes and makeup still on. Today’s nighttime routines have evolved into a much lengthier process of self care and home cleaning.
While this may seem obvious, too many people struggle to get to sleep for the fact that they simply aren’t tired. It is no secret that time moves quite a bit slower when you are camping and living out in the bush, so much so that you may find yourself too relaxed and in turn not tired by the end of the day.
Never underestimate the power of a good hike, brisk yoga, or a long swim. While it may seem counterintuitive to get your heart racing before bed, it can help put you to sleep. There is no better sleep than when you are physically, and mentally, exhausted. While it is best to do this during the day as you will not be left with a sudden burst of endorphins, we have found evening strolls to be effective as well. Get outside and run, walk, bike, paddle, or hike. Whatever you decide, this is the best natural sleep aid we have yet to come across.
We often get questions about which essential oils are best and why we use them. We rely heavily on essential oils in every aspect of our life and couldn’t be happier with the effect we have found from them.
While there are more and more companies popping up selling these products, we have always really liked using Sage products. The sleep well blend as well as the tranquility spray is something we use almost every single night. We bought a mask from them as well that we regularly add some essential oils to in order to get the best night’s sleep.
Meditating is a nightly routine for both Myles and I that we take part in almost every single night. This looks a bit different for everyone but whether you are clearing your mind while lying in bed or intently seeking out a spot to do some mindful meditation, it can have great positive effects on your sleep cycle.
We have a Spotify playlist full of meditation music that we fall asleep to quite often. We now associate the music with sleeping and no matter what we are doing we start to feel sleepy the moment we hear the tunes. I combine this with some mindfulness exercises like stretching or light bed yoga. Nothing puts me to sleep quite as well as warm and stretched out muscles.
You may be wondering how to meditate but worry less about how to and just do what feels right for you.
I like focusing on awareness and fall asleep every single night analyzing every inch of my body from the hair on my head to the tips of my toe. I visualize the body part and consciously think of it melting in relaxation. Most nights I don’t get through my body before I drift into a calm and deep sleep. Others I know can’t meditate with anyone else around as they find it too distracting and instead go to seek out a quiet private spot.
If you have decked out your rig for long term use, chances are you have thought ahead and have some energy efficient LED lights for indoor use. While these are great options, they don’t provide the best lighting for inducing a deep sleep. Light can play a big role in making you tired which is why we bought some warm fairy lights that run on rechargeable batteries. This causes less strain on our eyes while still allowing us to navigate our way through the van.
While ideally, you should not be using your cell phone or computer right before bed, it isn’t necessarily the most realistic thing. Whether you are setting your alarm, planning your next days route or simply checking up on your Instagram feed, the reality is our generation uses their phone up until the moment they fall asleep.
To help make this a bit better, we make sure that our screens brightness setting is always turned way down and that we have a blue light filter on, a setting called eye comfort on our phones. All of these things help make us still able to fall asleep even after using our devices.
How do you ensure a good night’s sleep in your camper? Do you incorporate any of these tips into your nighttime routine?
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These are such great tips! I’ve always thought it would be amazing to travel the country in a camper van. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do it!
OMG having a camper van is a dream of mine and I always wondered what the sleeping situation was really like. So I am really appreciative of this post and your transparency! Also I really love using essential oils for everything as well!
This looks like fun! We have an RV but it’s kind of big for alot of locations. You could take this camper van everywhere! Your camper van looks so cozy.
So helpful! We are headed off for a few camping trips in our VW van with the kids and so excited. I think we will be simply exhausted from chasing after twins all day and have NO problem sleeping hahaha
I am in love with your camper van 😍 I have never travelled in a camper van but will surely keep these tips in my mind! Bookmarked it for future reference ☺
I’ve never been on a road trip but it looks like a lot of fun actually! A great activity to do with the family this summer.
These are some really helpful tips! I’d love to travel in a camper van but love my sleep so wondered just how well I’d be able to sleep in one!
These are all great tips! I have never been camping but I did sleep in a Campervan a few nights. I have to admit that it was a good sleep. 🙂
I love the idea of finding flat land. I didn’t know that was something to keep an eye on.
this is super handy. I love these tips
Thanks for sharing these useful recommendations. It will be useful for RV travel lovers.
I have never been on a road trip with a camper van before. Great tips for newbies like me