When you have the ability to turn the inside of your car into a comfortable place to sleep, you can sleep in your car anytime during a car trip, such as when you get tired or want to save money on lodging. Sometimes sleeping in your car is vital and unavoidable, especially if you struggle to stay awake while driving and no one can take the driving for you. There are many ways to make your vehicle a safe and comfortable place to sleep and to get the rest you need on the road.
Method 1 of 3: Prepare for the trip
Step 1. Bring comfortable bedding
Whether you're parking for the night or taking a few hours break while your travel companion is driving, you'll need to tweak the car's interior a bit. While it's not impossible to just sleep in your car, it can be uncomfortable. You'll probably take a little more with you if you plan on sleeping at night and not just during the ride.
- Pillows and blankets (or a sleeping bag if you travel through cold regions) are indispensable. Don't rely on your car's heating if you plan on sleeping in it at night.
- Be sure to bring enough bedding for all passengers, especially if they are children. If you are going on a long car journey with someone and you take turns planning to drive, you can bring a set of pillows and blankets to save space in the car.
- Make sure you have these items in the car and not in the trunk or on the roof. You may get sleepy sooner than you expected, and it's helpful not to have to leave the car if the conditions outside are unpleasant.
Step 2. Bring comforting items to help you fall asleep
Many people have trouble sleeping in places other than their own bed. Bring common soothing items that you use to relax so that you feel more comfortable in your car.
- For example, if you like to read before bed, bring a book and a light so you can do some reading before you fall asleep.
- Music is useful here, but don't rely on your car radio. Bring an MP3 player and headphones so you can still relax to music with the car off before going to sleep.
- If you are very concerned about your ability to fall asleep in the car, consult a pharmacist about over-the-counter sleeping aids. Note, however, that you will need to rest for several hours after taking it before you can drive again.
Step 3. Bring sun protection for the windows
For those who like to get some sleep while someone else drives, you need something to keep the sun out of your eyes. Those who have no option but to sleep in the car will need something in front of the windows to ensure their privacy.
- Towels and T-shirts that you bring with you can be useful here. Provided the T-shirts are large enough, both can be used as efficient window coverings.
- Also have some clothespins or tape with you to secure the window covering. If you forget, you can clamp the cover between the door and the door frame.
- Bring a hat and sunglasses if you plan on sleeping during the day. Wearing a hat and sunglasses while you sleep will protect your face from the sun still coming in, and can help you sleep better and also provide extra privacy.
Method 2 of 3: Sleep on the move
Step 1. Sit in the correct sleeping position
Sleeping while the car is in motion is never easy as you have to keep your seat belt on and sleep seated. There is no one right way to do this, and it may take you a while to get seated properly and comfortably.
- Take an adjustable chair, if possible. Many front passenger seats allow you to fully recline the backrest. With no one behind you, this is the best way to simulate a flat sleeping area.
- Rest your head on your pillow against the window. If you can't lie back, it's best to use the window to lean your head against.
Step #2. Let the driver know
The enemy of a nap on the road is a restless driver. Shocks, bumps and hard turns can ruin your sleeping experience and leave you restless. Make sure the driver knows you're planning to take a nap so that they can take it into account when driving.
- Remind the other person that you will do the same when he/she goes to sleep. This way, the other person is more likely to take you into account.
- Also consult with the driver before covering the windows to block out the light. The driver may need it to check the blind spots and the rest of the road. Sunglasses and a hat may be more useful here.
- Don't let the music wake you up. You don't want to be woken up by heavy metal after an hour just because your MP3 player is still on shuffle play.
Step #3. Accept how much sleep you can get
Even if you've planned, prepared and done everything to ensure a long night's sleep, an unavoidable bump or sudden horn will inevitably interrupt you. Keep a positive attitude even when you're sleepy and cranky, and who knows, maybe your travel companions will do the same.
Bring a sleep mask to cover your eyes in case you are suddenly disturbed. If something wakes you up, you won't be easily disoriented or startled by the sudden sun or a street lamp. The mask keeps your eyes in the dark so you can quickly fall asleep again
Method 3 of 3: Sleeping in the car
Step 1. Choose a safe location to park your car
A safe location should be away from traffic and store entrances, in a location that allows extended or overnight parking. Some locations have strict rules and prohibit overnight parking, so you could be towed or fined if you park in these locations.
- Whether or not you get fined for sleeping in your car depends entirely on where you are. Check local and national regulations when you travel. Never sleep on the side of the road or highway.
- Park at a fixed rest area, or 24-hour parking lot. Many highways have stops where you can park and stay overnight. This is really the best option to avoid being disturbed by snoopers or the police.
- Find a 24-hour store. If you travel by car in the US, Walmart is the big name in this category. However, some locations have explicit rules about staying overnight in parking lots, so check online or in-store before closing your eyes for the night.
- Park somewhere reasonably well lit. While it may seem counterintuitive to try to sleep, for your safety, it's best to park in a well-lit parking lot.
Step 2. Turn off the car
Leave the keys out of the ignition. It is possible that you are breaking the law if you fall asleep with your keys in the ignition - this can be regarded as sleeping 'behind the wheel'. Keep your doors locked and your keys in your pocket.
If you are somewhere very cold, you may need to wake up frequently to let the car idle for warmth. Make sure you stay awake
Step 3. Keep your windows or sunroof slightly open for ventilation
By allowing air to flow in and circulate in the car, you will sleep more comfortably and avoid waking up feeling warm and sticky, or with condensation on the windows.
- If you're somewhere relatively busy, this might not be the best idea. The noise from outside can keep you awake if the window is open. You also don't want people to look at what you're doing there.
- This is also not necessary or even recommended if it is very cold outside (although sleeping in the car when it is freezing outside is not harmless due to the risk of suffocation).
Step 4. Find a comfortable sleeping position
Fortunately, if the car is not moving, you have several options. Hopefully you don't have anyone to share the car with for optimal space. Depending on the type of car you have, you can adopt different positions.
- Ideally, you have a five-door or other type of car that opens into the trunk from the back seat. If you can lower the back seats and open the trunk for your legs, then this is the best way to stretch out.
- When driving a pickup, there must be enough space in the bed of the car to sleep in. You can stretch a tarp over the bed to keep insects out.
- If you're on the short side, an empty rear seat can make a useful bed. You'll probably have to pull your legs up at night, so if you're prone to moving around while you sleep, it could end up being uncomfortable.
- At the very least, sleep in a fully reclined chair. The ability to lie down is at least partly comparable to the usual environment of sleeping in a bed.
Step 5. Follow a morning routine after waking up
This practice will help you wake up feeling refreshed and more comfortable, especially if you have a full day of driving ahead of you. Sleeping in a car can sometimes make you feel especially dirty or cramped, so take the time to stretch and freshen up.
- If you're lucky enough to come across a rest stop along the way, take the time to shower and brush your teeth in the facilities provided.
- Keep some mineral water on hand, intended solely for these morning washes. If you don't have anything else to hand, it's useful to wash your face or brush your teeth with it.