How to get a good night’s sleep in a tent


Just because you’re sleeping in a tent doesn’t mean that you have to give up on the idea of a peaceful night’s sleep. Whether you’ve struggled with tossing and turning on a previous trip or you’re worried about missing out on your precious shuteye when you set off on your first camping holiday, there’s no need to fret.

Sleeping in a tent can be a very relaxing experience, especially if you take a few simple steps such as selecting the correct camping gear and nailing your bedtime routine, as this guide will explain.

Tents at night (Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE / Unsplash)

Selecting the right camping gear to help you sleep well

Your gear has a big say in how comfy your sleeping space will be, as well as how warm (or cool) you’ll stay during the night.

Sleeping bags

The first step is learning how to pick a good-quality sleeping bag. Down sleeping bags are better when you’re camping in cold climates, while those with synthetic fibres are better at keeping you cool in a warmer climate, as well as fighting off dampness from condensation.

Camping beds

Another important piece of kit is a comfy camping bed. Our guide to choosing the best camping bed has more information on exactly what you should be looking for, but the bottom line is that air beds and camp beds provide the most comfort by elevating you from the ground. 

Both options are compact. However, a puncture can quickly deflate an air bed and the downside of a traditional camp bed is that it’s trickier to set up. The other option is a foam camping mat, but this lightweight option will offer less protection from the cold (and potentially lumpy) ground.

Before you set off, you’ll want to test out your chosen bed to work out how comfortable it really is and save yourself any sleepless nights while you’re away by making any necessary adjustments in advance. For example, air beds can have a tendency to deflate during the night, so we’d recommend sleeping on it for one night at home to see how it handles your weight.

Camping pillows

Nowadays, it’s easy to get your hands on a compact camping pillow, but there are a few different types:

1. A compressible pillow


·  These pillows can be folded in half to fit in your backpack.

·  They often have a cotton finish, which feels similar to the pillows you’d use at home.


·  They can be quite thin, so you might want to double up for a more comfortable headrest.

 2. An inflatable camping pillow


·   Inflatable camping pillows are light and easy to transport.


·  Inflatable camping pillows can feel too firm for some people.

·  The air can make ‘creaking’ noises when you move around at night.

·  Inflatable pillows will deflate if they are accidentally punctured.

We’d recommend easing off inflating your air pillow fully, so that it is less rigid, and testing it beforehand to ensure that it doesn’t creak when you move around at night.

3.  A memory foam pillow


·  Memory foam moulds to the shape of your head, creating a firm but comfortable headrest.

·  They feel the most like your pillow at home.

·  They’re thicker than a compressible pillow.


·  Although they are slightly smaller than standard home pillow, memory foam pillows are bulkier than the other options.

·  They are typically more expensive.

Overall, the memory foam pillow is the most comfortable option, but they are also larger and more expensive. After that, we’d recommend a compressible pillow, because an infatable pillow is likely to keep you awake due to the noise and firm texture.

Size is also important to consider when you’re selecting a comfortable camping pillow, as a too-small pillow might cause you to lose your head placement in the night, keeping you awake unnecessarily.

If you’ve already arrived at your campsite and you’re missing a pillow from your camping checklist, one remedy is to create a makeshift pillow from spare clothes stuffed inside a t-shirt or roll up a padded coat.

A good tent

A sturdy, reliable and waterproof tent is an essential for a good night’s sleep, so check out our guide to buying a tent to make sure that your tent can withstand heavy rain, keep out insects and fight off condensation or heat using features such as air vents. A tent with a sewn-in groundsheet may come in handy to prevent moisture seeping through your tent’s floor and keeping you awake.

Getting ready for bed

1. Familiarise yourself with the area.

When you’re sleeping in new surroundings, the best thing to do is scope out your new area. This includes locating the nearest toilets so that it’s easy to find your way there in the dark if needed, as well as introducing yourself to your neighbours and the campsite owners so that you know some friendly faces are also around at night if you need them.

You’ll also want to familiarise yourself with where your tent zips are located, so that you’re not fiddling around unnecessarily in the dark.

2. Keep important items like mobile phones and a torch beside you.

Take note of any important items you might need to reach for in the night, such as a torch, mobile phone or water bottle, and position them close by to your bed or under your pillow for easy access.

3. Follow your normal bedtime routine.

Your normal bedtime routine sends messages to your brain that it’s time to sleep, so sticking to your usual habits will set you up for a good night’s sleep. This includes going to bed at the same time whenever possible to keep your body clock in check.

4. Wear earplugs.

Block out the noise of nature and other campers using a pair of earplugs. These are easy to lose, so pack spares and keep them under your pillow in case they fall out at night. Cheap foam earplugs or wax earplugs can be picked up in pharmacies or supermarkets – we’d recommend wax earplugs for a fit that will mould to your ear shape and block out noise more effectively.

5. Wear an eye mask.

Investing in an eye mask will help to keep out the glare from any artificial light around the campsite and the sun, especially if you’re camping in the summertime, when there are longer daylight hours. 

6. Try to relax.

Everyone has different hobbies that help them to relax before bed, but some great tactics include reading a book, listening to a podcast or playing a relaxing soundtrack through your headphones.

7. Warm up before bed and wear layers if it’s cold.

When you’re winter camping or it’s chilly outside, one of the best ways to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep is by doing some exercise before bed. Whether it’s some jumping jacks or a lap around the campsite, raising your temperature will keep you warm because your sleeping bag conserves your body heat throughout the night. 

Another way to warm up your sleeping bag is by filling a hot water bottle. Layering up will also trap heat between your clothes, and they’re easy to remove if you get too warm.

8. If you’re camping in a hot climate, take some steps to keep your tent cool.

Prevent your tent from getting too stuffy in a hot climate by sleeping on top of your sleeping bag, as well as following our tips on how to keep your tent cool.

9. Ensure that your tent’s air vents are open.

Poor circulation can keep you awake throughout the night, as it leads to condensation which can drip from the ceiling and make you (or your sleeping bag) damp. Before you go to bed, check that your air vents are open – and don’t worry, most are fitted with fly netting to keep out insects.


How can I sleep better in a tent?

Consider following your usual bedtime routine, investing in comfortable and reliable gear and familiarising yourself with your environment.

What is the best thing to sleep on when camping?

An air bed or camping bed is the most comfortable camping option, because they elevate you from the ground.

What is the most comfortable way to sleep in a tent?

Selecting the right gear, such as a comfortable sleeping bag, bed and a reliable tent, will help you to stay comfortable throughout the night in a tent.