Knowing how to sleep comfortably in the backseat of a car is indeed an invaluable skill.
As someone who travels a lot by road, I understand what it means to be stranded with nowhere to sleep. I’ve also been a position where I drove for hours, got tired, and had to sleep in the car.
There are arguably several circumstances that can make you want to sleep in your car, and you need to be prepared before the day finally comes.
In this guide, we’ll show you some necessary preparations you need to take to have a comfortable sleep in the backseat or front seat of your car.
Why Sleep in The Backseat of Your Car?
Except you have an RV camper or a station wagon, a car is one of the worst places to sleep.
If you’ve ever slept in your car, then you can testify that it’s like taking a nap in hell. Reclining the front seat makes you feel like you’re folded, and laying across the backset leaves the seatbelt buckle imprints on your soft bits. However, a time shall come when sleeping in your car is the only choice you have.
Maybe you’re on a journey, or you’re camping, and you don’t have the budget to pay for a campground or a motel – or it’s probably too late to book into one anyway.
That’s not all; what if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere or you run out of gas? Or maybe you underestimated the journey; you feel week and are struggling to stay awake? And the list goes on!
As you can see, there are several reasons why sleeping in your car might be your only option, which is why knowing how to sleep comfortably in the backseat of a car is of utmost importance.
And yes, I’m usually more comfortable sleeping in the backseat than in the front seat when you found yourself in a new sleeping environment.
How To Sleep Comfortably In The Backseat Of A Car
First of all, being able to sleep in a car comfortably will mostly depend on the size of your vehicle and how well you sleep in uncomfortable places. But comfort is not the only thing to look at in this case. You also want to prioritize your health and safety.
Below, I’ll share with you some of the most tested and proven tips that will enable you to sleep in a car comfortably.
While going on a drive or traveling, you want to go with some carefully selected clothes that you’ll feel comfortable sleeping with. Loose, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen will be great choices.
This is because putting on tight clothing will prevent blood circulation in most cases, which becomes a big concern when you’re sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
It’s also advisable to put on comfortable shoes with laces (if possible), so you can easily loosen them or slip them off when you want to sleep in the car.
And if you’re wearing sandals or flip flops, endeavor to go with an extra pair of socks as well as that will help keep your feet warm as well as regulate your body temperature.
Carrying a lightweight blanket is also a wise idea, so you can use it to cover yourself if you feel cold.
Look for a Good Place to Park
When you want to sleep in your car in a new city or town, the first thing is to find a good place to park. An upmarket neighborhood that has no parking restrictions, the carpark of a superstore, or sometimes, a church premise is a great option.
Remember that many locations do not allow overnight parking, so you will have to do some research on the local traffic regulations before parking to avoid having your car towed or receiving a fine.
You will likely be in the middle of nowhere at this point. Don’t just pull over and to sleep. Instead, find a more discreet area or a dedicated rest stop – and your vehicle should be parked away from main roads, entrances, and exits to avoid accidents or disturbances.
In most cases, it’s also not advisable to park on a steep slope. Instead, you want to park somewhere as flat as possible so you can sleep as comfortably as possible.
And if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in a spot you have chosen, then look for somewhere else. You don’t want to sleep in an unsafe place to avoid any danger.
If you are not able to find somewhere good and secure to park, some apps can provide you with locations that allow you to park legally, such as Hipcamp and AllStays. The point is to ensure you’re in a secure place.
Other things to be mindful of before you finally sleep off on the car include:
1. Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
You want to ensure you turn off your engine before you sleep; this is very important. No matter how cold or warm the weather is, you can’t leave your car’s engine on while sleeping to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is dangerous – and can kill instantly.
You can sleep as comfortably as you want – but not with the engine turned on. In this case, a little less comfy means more good health and alive.
I bet you already know this, but it’s worth mentioning still. You must shut all the car doors before falling asleep. The same thing applies to the sunroof and windows. However, I’d suggest you let one of them slightly cracked to prevent the sauna effect that might happen overnight.
If the weather is very cold, you should actually keep one of the car windows slightly open. This may appear counterintuitive; however, the reason why it’s advisable to leave a window open is to prevent condensation. Condensation will get you wet and consequently make you colder – I’m sure you don’t want that.
Again, under extreme cold weather conditions, it might be necessary to wake up and warm up the car every couple of hours.
Apart from all these, you also want to keep your car keys in a safe and secure place and also ensure that your valuables are adequately hidden.
Finally, it’s of utmost importance to park your vehicle undercover on a warm sunny day to prevent the car from getting overly hot. Extreme hot cars can kill.
In fact, a report by Injury Facts showed that:
“Nearly every state has experienced at least one death since 1998, and in 2018, a record number of 53 children died after being left in a hot vehicle, closely followed in 2019 with 52 deaths.”
Remember to always stay vigilant of your neighborhood whenever you’re parked in an unfamiliar city.
Cover the car windows
To prevent disturbances from beggars and passersby that might approach your vehicle, or just to prevent being woken up by early morning sun, you can use something to cover the windows, such as remaining clothes.
This will also help to improve your privacy and security because being seen sleeping in a car in public might get you into some kind of trouble or attract unnecessary attention.
Create a space to sleep
Getting a decent sleep in a car can be somewhat tough due to the lack of enough space, especially if your car is small. It also depends on your height.
While this post is mostly focused on how to sleep comfortably in the backseat of a car, if your car is small, then it might be better to stay in the front seat of the vehicle and reclining the seat as much as possible to your comfort.
But if your vehicle is somewhat bigger (think of those medium-sized cars), then you should be able to make a proper bed on the back seat of the vehicle.
You can always purchase a specially designed car air mattress for this purpose. Although you might not be able to stretch out fully, you’ll get a relatively comfortable and flatbed to sleep on if you’re used to curling up on your side.
And if you have a station wagon, then you can just fold down your back seats, doubling the back of your car in size. Once that is done, the next thing is to put down a sleeping mattress on the space and doze off.
You should also use something, such as extra clothes, to pad out any uneven surfaces beneath your mat so you can sleep as comfy as possible. Congratulations, you just made for yourself a safe and cozy mobile bedroom.
However, if you choose to just sleep on the car back seat without using the car air mattress, then you have to pay attention to the following tips:
- Avoid resting your head on the door: This might result in you not sleeping at all, and will probably give you a sore head.
- Rest your head on your hand: This is a wonderful car sleeping position, and the one I do most. It’s all about putting your elbow on a surface and resting your head on your head.
- Lower the armrest of the middle seat: The armrest gives you that luxury of shifting positions throughout the ride if the car has one.
- Go with pillows: You may not want to rest your head on your hand the entire time. With a pillow, you will have an easier time sleeping on the backseat. You may also need a neck pillow so you can easily tilt your head and sleep.
- Avoid facing towards the sun: This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen people making the mistake still. The sun rays can really disturb your sleep.
The tips above are also applicable if you want to sleep on the backseat while the car is in motion if you’re actually not the driver.
Block every form of distraction
Distractions can come in different shapes and mediums when you’re on the road. It may be something appealing like a beautiful view or something annoying like a truck blasting its loud horn. Whichever way the distraction comes, it’s certainly won’t help you as you try to sleep while traveling.
What can you do about it?
It’s actually simple – just come prepared with noise-canceling devices and a sleep mask. Essentially, opt for sleep masks made with silk or memory foam as they’re the for blocking out light – and can easily adapt to the shape of your face, covering your eyes.
Once you have successfully blocked every form of visual distraction, the next task is to cancel out the auditory ones. You can achieve this by using some noise-canceling earplugs, or simply put on earphones and play calming songs that’ll help you sleep.
Alternatively, you can find some cool apps that have exercises and soundtracks to help you fall asleep. For example, Headspace has stories and soundtracks that will easily calm your mind down and make you relax. Noisli has different white noise tracks, while Slumber features guided sleep meditations.
I’ve discovered that listening to some cool, soothing music before falling asleep always helps me to sleep quicker and peacefully.
Create a serene environment
Our mind is, by default, trained to start feeling dozy immediately we found ourselves in the bedroom because it’s associated with sleep. While you can’t possibly bring your bedroom into the vehicle, you will still be able to create some elements that’ll elicit drowsiness.
For instance, car fresheners with patchouli scents or lavender are known to trigger the sleep hormones. However, if you’re not traveling alone and your companions do not like the idea of having the car flooded with scents, another great option is to dab some scented essential oil on your pulse spots.
You will also need a sit-up pillow. It will help you to maintain a better posture, keeping your muscles from cramping. The size of the sit-up pillow also matters – you want to get one that fits in with your car.
Aside from that, you also want to keep the car’s temperature stable as much as possible. Anything around 67-75F is ideal as it’s an optimal sleep temperature. Try not to open the windows too, as this will impact both the air quality inside the car and the temperature.
Ensure supplies are nearby
While sleeping in the car, the worst thing that can happen to you is to wake up in the middle of the night and start searching everywhere for supplies. Hence, you want to ensure you have everything you may need within reach.
This includes items such as your smartphone, a bottle of water, a flashlight, and your keys. Once all the things mentioned above have been taken care of, the next thing will be to just lay back on the backseat of your four wheels – and have a very lovely and comfortable sleep.
Sleeping in the Front Seat of a Car Vs. the Backseat
If you’re wondering whether you should sleep in the front seat of the car or the back seat, then there are a few things you need to know. First of all, it all depends on individuals; some people prefer sleeping in the backseat to the front seat and vice-versa.
However, most people would also assume that the back seat of a car is the best place to sleep, as you’ll be further away from the driver’s seat, especially when the car is in motion to avoid noise and possible disturbances.
The backseat also offers you more privacy so you can sleep very well, especially if you don’t have a good rapport with the driver.
But the front seat is also fantastic in many cases. Here are a few of the advantages of sleeping on a car’s front seat:
- The front seat comes equipped with a built-in sunshade
- The front seats can be reclined, giving you more flexibility with your posture
- You’ll be closer to the car’s controls (you can change the volume on the sound system and adjust the car temperature)
- The jump seat also has more legroom, giving you the privilege to stretch out and be more comfortable
But if the car is actually packed in one place and you want to sleep for the night, I’d always choose the backseat as I’ll be more relaxed, especially if the car is a bit spacious.
Hopefully, you now know how to sleep comfortably in the backseat of a car. Now, it’s time to actually try the tips shared here and see how it’ll work for you.
If you are able to get some good sleep in your car, then that’s awesome. If not, that’s still not a problem – be thankful for the little space you manage to get.
You should always remember that your car can never replace your bedroom in terms of comfort and sleep quality. All you need is to be able to stay safe and have quiet time if you eventually found yourself in the middle of nowhere.