Tips to Beat Backcountry Insomnia

Tips to Beat Backcountry Insomnia


The Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci once wrote in his notebook, "As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death." I wonder if da Vinci was lying awake at night when he wrote that, or if he'd ever been backcountry camping and so restless that he'd take sleep or death, whichever he could get. 

Your body is spent from a day of hiking, but your mind is a six-year-old on Halloween candy. Your hiking partner is sound asleep in the mummy bag beside you, ready to emerge in the morning like a beautiful butterfly from its cocoon. With another full day of hiking ahead, sleep is paramount. Doctors recommend a minimum of 7.5 to 8 hours per night for adults.

Below are some simple techniques - some physiological, some psychological - that will help almost anyone get a full eight hours of sleep in the backcountry.


Plan your day

Try to spend most of your day on the trail. A full day of cardio and a 10-15-mile trek will push your body to its physical limit, helping you to sleep better. If you want to sleep for nine hours, try to stay on the trail at least seven or eight the previous day - say, from 8 to 4. Stop at least a few hours before you bed down to let your body return to homeostasis. The after-effects of strenuous exercise can linger for hours, making you feel jittery (the body's way of compensating for "oxygen deficit").


Eat carbs for dinner

Save your no-carb diet for the workweek: foods rich in carbohydrates help your muscles recover from a workout by replenishing glycogen stores. 


Don’t skimp on your sleeping pad

Invest in a sleeping pad that’s thick enough to relieve pressure points, long enough to fit you body, and warm enough for the climate/season (the higher the R-Value, the warmer the pad). 


Get out of your sweaty clothes

What you can do, after your body stops sweating, is change into a clean layer of clothes before you zip into your sleeping bag. 


Pack earplugs

Whether it’s phantom rustlings in the leaves, dead branches dropping onto the forest floor, a swarm of cicadas, pounding rain, or early birds that won’t shut up, there are plenty of annoying sounds to torment the light sleeper. 


Don’t smoke

In addition to the obvious health hazards of smoking, tobacco products can impact your sleep. The best route is to quit smoking, as this will improve both your ability to sleep and perform strenuous exercise. 


Source: How to Beat Backcountry Insomnia

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