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How to Sleep in a Car: Road Trips, Long Drives, and More!

How to Sleep in a Car: Road Trips, Long Drives, and More!

Sandland Editorial Team
· 8 min read
how to sleep in a car

Sleeping in the car isn't often ideal. Cramped spaces, bright lights, and noisy backgrounds don't exactly line up in ways that provide plenty of rest. But sometimes, it is necessary. Long road tips, moving across state lines, and overnight adventures all call for some sort of refuge— even the kind that comes on four wheels. Fortunately, there are ways to make the experience, well, tolerable. Restful, even. Whether you're a passenger in need of some shut-eye or a solo driver looking for ways to hole up overnight, we've got you covered. Read on below to learn how to sleep in a car the right way.

How to Sleep in the Car as a Passenger

As a passenger, you don't have to stress out about what's happening on the road. You can look at your phone, stare out the window, or even sneak in a quick nap. Doing so comfortably, however, is a different story. Below, we'll outline how to improve the experience.

What You'll Need

Here are a few important things you'll need for sleeping in a car comfortably:

  • Comfortable clothes
  • Sleep mask
  • Additional blankets
  • Travel pillow
  • Sleeping bag
  • Water bottle
  • Sleeping pad

What You Should Do

man taking photo from car

Now that you have your list of items, here's what you should do to increase your odds of sleeping comfortably in the car.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

We often forget how important the clothes we wear are. Loose clothing made from breathable materials such as cotton and linen aren't only cozy but they also give you the comfort you need to sleep like a baby.

Don't Recline Too Far

While getting sleep is important, always remember—safety first! When sleeping as a passenger, keep your seatbelt on and avoid reclining too far back. While it may not allow for the most intuitive sleeping position, it will keep you safe in case of a crash.

Use a Sleep Mask

The soft material and gentle pressure of a sleep mask are often attributed to a good night's sleep. These accessories are also great minimizing the disruption street lights and sunshine can cause. Sleeping in the dark can improve the quality of your sleep and prevent all the distractions going on around you.

Bring a Neck Pillow

A neck pillow can improve your sleep posture and relieve pressure points. This makes it so you don't wake up with unnecessary aches and pains.

Get Snuggly With a Blanket

If you want the warm and cozy feeling of being home while sleeping in your car, cuddle up under a blanket. It provides a protective barrier to protect you from cold weather and an AC on blast. Weighted blankets provide the additional perk of deep pressure stimulation, which not only reduces cortisol, but increases levels of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone.

Listen to White or Pink Noise

Unless you're one of those people that can fall asleep anywhere, you'll probably need a way to block out unwanted sounds. Consider entertaining forms of white noise, like a fan or air conditioner. You can also purchase playlists that contain these types of sounds for long drives.

Pink noise is another option. This consistent frequency of sounds like waves on a beach, steady rain or wind blowing through trees can help you drown out unwanted audio. These sounds can also create a feeling of calm and improve the quality of your sleep.

Pack a Pillow

Your pillow isn't just for your bed! Take it with you on your next adventure to provide additional support for your neck and upper back.

Consider Taking a Sleep Supplement

Road trips and long drives are fun but if you aren't getting the sleep you need, your trip may become the stuff nightmares are made of. Thankfully, sleep aids containing melatonin and other all-natural ingredients can help you fall asleep fast.

How to Sleep in the Car Overnight

woman driving two people can sleep comfortable in the back seat of a car

If you're the one manning the wheel, then your ability to sleep comfortably in the car becomes much more challenging. Mainly because you'll have to stop driving altogether before you can enjoy any shuteye. Check out the list of car-camping tips below for more quality rest.

What You'll Need

They say failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Be sure to pack the following items for sleeping in your car comfortably.

  • Sleeping bag
  • Air mattress
  • T-shirt
  • Sleep mask
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Extra blankets
  • Travel pillow
  • Water bottle
  • Sleeping pad

What You Should Do

Now that you have everything you need, it's time for some tips on how to make car sleeping as restful as possible. Remember, the more prepared you are, the more sleep you'll get, and the more enjoyable your trip will become.

Find Free and Safe Parking

As a solo driver, safety should be one of your biggest concerns, followed by convenience and comfort. Let's start with where to park your car overnight. The good news is that there are plenty of safe and free options that you may find on your road trip. These include:

  • Department store parking lot
  • Religious buildings
  • Large shopping malls
  • Residential areas
  • Street parking
  • 24 hour gyms
  • 24 hour businesses
  • Industrial parks
  • Dedicated rest stops

Remember that it's important to use common sense when using these free parking lots. You want to ensure that as a solo driver, whatever location you pick is safe so that you can get the quality sleep you need. When in doubt about a location or after witnessing any suspicious behavior, move to another location or spend the night at a motel or hotel. Your safety comes first.

Text Someone Your Location

Once you find a location that's safe and (preferably) free, let someone know where you are. Text them your location and share with them any other information they may need to know. Choose someone who's reliable or regularly checks their phone should you need them.

Pack All Bedding Supplies

If you're not sure what it's like sleeping in the car, then do yourself a favor and pack yourself a few comfort items you may (or may not!) need. The more bedding supplies you have, the easier and more comfortable your experience of sleeping in a car.

Make a Bed in the Backseat

Though some drivers prefer to hole up in the front seats of the car, preparing a bed in the rear seats often provides a more comfortable sleep. If you fold down the back seats to make a more proper bed. Then, use blankets and pillows to create yourself a cozy and comfortable sleep nook.

Find the Right Temperature

Extreme temperatures will compromise your ability to sleep comfortably in the car. What you want to do is find the right temperature that safely promotes quality sleep. While you never want to sleep with the windows rolled all the way down, you should crack them open enough to create sufficient ventilation. In hot climate, use a fan that's battery operated and in cold climate, use extra blankets and layers to stay warm.

Lock Your Doors

Yep, you better lock your doors! Safety comes first and no matter how comfortable you feel, it's never a good idea to keep the doors open. Also, be sure you are able to easily access and open a door in case of an emergency. After all, the world is a crazy place, and anything can happen out there on the road.

Create Some Privacy

Place your towels, bed sheets or other materials you have to cover all your windows. The last thing you want is have a stranger watch you sleep or attract human predators who like to steal from or harm solo travelers.

Turn Off Your Car

This is perhaps one of the safest tips for sleeping that you can't ignore or forget. Don't ever sleep and leave your engine running. Never, ever! First of all, this kills your car battery. Secondly, sleeping in the car with the engine running can allow the air in this closed off space to become contaminated with carbon monoxide. This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning - something we're sure you'd want to avoid!

How to Sleep in a Small Car With Two People

Wondering how to sleep in a car with two people without driving each other crazy? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Check out our expert-based tips for sleeping comfortable in the car with a partner.

What You'll Need

Here are a few thing you'll need for two people sleeping in a car:

  • Additional blankets
  • Sleep mask (especially if the other person wants to keep the lights on or watch something!)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillows
  • Ear plugs

What You Should Do

Great, you've collected all the supplies you need for two people to sleep comfortably in a car. So, now what? Let's find out what you can do to fall asleep fast and stay asleep throughout the night.

Again, Pack Your Bedding Supplies (Extra Pillows!)

Use additional blankets and bedding supplies to create a more comfortable space for sleeping. Remember, more layers means more cushioning. We promise, those extra pillows will come in handy, here!

Use The Bathroom Before You Settle Down

If you want to avoid any awkwardness in the car, be sure to use the bathroom before you settle down for bed. This will help you fall asleep faster and prevent you from disturbing your partner during the night.

Recline The Passenger Seat for Your Friend

Help your friend adjust the front seat so they can recline as far back as they want for comfortable sleep.

...While You Head Into the Backseat

While two people can sleep comfortable in the back seat of a car, creating different sleep environments gives you both more space and more privacy throughout the night.

Crack The Window

Don't forget to leave the windows open! You want a bit of air circulating in the car so keep your windows slightly cracked. After all, fresh air is important.

Set Your Alarm To Get Out In Time

Sleeping in the car typically requires getting up early and hitting the road fast. This is especially true for when overnight parking has strict limits. Think residential areas, religious buildings, and street parking situations.

How Sandland Sleep Can Help

With the help of a few cozy accessories, sleeping in the car can be just as successful as spending a night in a motel. Still, a new environment can introduce some unexpected challenges. Fortunately, Sandland Sleep can help. Our all-natural sleep supplements are designed to provide quality rest. No morning-after grogginess, just good clean sleep. That way, you can rest easy and hit the road as soon as you wake up.

Wrapping Up

Taking a road trip can be a truly unforgettable experience. Unfamiliar areas and hidden roadside gems can contribute to some amazing new memories. The best part? It's cheap! Especially if you skip out on hotel costs and sleep in the car instead—without compromising on safety and comfort, of course!

Can you sleep in a car with the AC on?

Sleeping in the car with the AC on is definitely something you should avoid. It can be dangerous. In some instances, it can even lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Is it safe to sleep in the car?

It's safe to sleep in a car as long as you follow some general safety rules. For example, keep your doors locked, don't open your windows all the way, and don't keep your engine running. You also want to ensure that you park somewhere safe.

Can you suffocate while sleeping in a car?

Generally speaking, it's not possible to suffocate while sleeping in a car. This is because there's enough oxygen in your car to keep you alive and kicking. The only time you can suffocate while sleeping in a car is if you leave your AC on.

Written by Sandland Editorial Team

Our internal editorial team has put together research on key topics including product formulation, efficacy studies, and sleep advice.

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