Tips for Making Sleeping in the Car More Comfortable

With the popularity of air travel, old-fashioned road trips usually get sidestepped. But there are still some people who find that it’s hard to compete with a road trip when it comes to quality time with the family. After all, the trip is much about the journey as the destination.

If you’re planning for a family road trip, don’t forget your sleeping plans! To be comfortable on a long car ride, you have to make sure that everyone can get comfortable. Getting well-rested and having time to sleep increases the enjoyment of a road trip and helps keep you safe on the road. However, we all know that sleeping in the car is not the most comfortable thing. To avoid sleeplessness and fatigue for everyone, try the following tips:

Break up your trip.

A passenger's view of a roadtrip

To stay rested while you’re on a road trip, make sure to break it up. Ideally, your road trip driving schedule should complement your natural sleep schedule to make everyone more comfortable. Take turns driving during the day, and stop at night so everyone in the car can sleep. Break your trip up into segments that allow you plenty of time to stop and rest.

Some road trips don’t allow for overnight stops. If this applies to your trip, take turns between driving and sleeping in the car. Let the other person rest and sleep while the other drives.

Pack stuff that can make your sleep comfortable.

You can bring different items with you on a road trip to make sleeping in the car more comfortable. You can pack things like:

  • Pillows and blankets, including travel pillows
  • Sleep masks and sunglasses
  • Earplugs or headphones
  • Window shades
  • Sleeping bags
  • Warm clothing and hand warmers for cold nights
  • Portable, solar-charged fans for hot nights
  • Mattress pads and air mattresses (if space in your car can allow)
  • Anti-nausea medication

Choose a comfortable position immediately.

Take the time to make sure you are comfortable from the moment you start on your trip. The smallest irritation in the beginning can turn into a raging pain later. Make sure your back pockets are empty and keep your back aligned against the back of the seat. 

The best sleeping position in a moving car is sitting upright with the seat slightly tilted back. Lean on to one side and use a pillow to support your head. If you can move your seat back so you can stretch your legs, that’s great too. Stuff some clothing or bags between you and the side of the car to reduce the noise and vibrations caused by driving.

Stay buckled.

If you want to doze off while the car is moving, make sure you wear your seatbelt. It can be tempting to remove the seatbelt and lie flat on the seat to make sleeping more comfortable, but this can be dangerous. If you get in an accident while in that position, you can get seriously harmed. You can recline on your seat later when the car is parked or not in motion.

Doze on a full stomach.

There’s something about having a full stomach that makes us ready to rest. For this reason, don’t travel on an empty stomach. Satisfy your belly before sleeping so you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Plus, a full stomach can help prevent motion sickness since an empty stomach makes you susceptible to nausea and dizziness.

If you can’t eat a full meal or eat takeout while on the drive, then be sure to snack. Pack some snacks with you like granola and nuts to keep you feeling fuller longer.

Tell everyone you’ll be sleeping.

One of the biggest obstacles to a good road trip nap is the people traveling with you. You probably cannot sleep well if there are loud conversations or a blaring radio. Before sleeping, tell your intentions to sleep to everyone in the car so they can lessen the noise and help you rest. This works if you’re traveling with a few family or friends.

Use a sunshade.

It can be more challenging than sleeping at night if you’re trying to sleep while the sun is out. And even on a cloudy day, the sun comes and goes, creating a flashing effect on your eyes when you’re trying to relax. Use a sunshade to block the sun out so you can relax. You can also use mesh sunshade curtains that stretch completely over your window so you can get privacy and sun protection in one.

Put on earplugs or headphones.

After blocking out the light, fix the background noise that stops you from falling asleep by wearing some earplugs. It’s one of the best noise-canceling tools while traveling. If you have noise-canceling headphones, that’s great, but the bulkiness of those pairs might not be comfortable to use for sleeping. If you choose to wear headphones, you can listen to sleep aide music.  

Wear a sleep mask.

Sometimes, a sunshade can’t filter out all the light. The flashing light from the sun or even from traffic lights at night may wake you up repeatedly. For complete darkness, you need a sleep mask so you can feel like you’re in the peaceful darkness of your bedroom. A simple silk sleep mask will do, but you can always splurge for a contoured memory foam sleep mask if you like.

Use a neck cushion.

A panda-designed neck pillow

Supporting your head is absolutely crucial when it comes to sleeping in your car. A neck pillow  is a horseshoe-shaped pillow designed to support the neck and head to avoid neck pain when sleeping on travel, and it also stays in place so you can sleep comfortably even if you’re sitting upright.

Use a blanket.

Staying warm is essential when sleeping in a car. Cuddling up with a blanket can do this and can make you feel more protected and less exposed. To enhance your sleeping experience, go for a weighted blanket  or a heated blanket. Weighted blankets are blankets that have some kind of weight added to them so you can feel you’re like in a hug. They are pricier than normal blankets, but they are worth it. Meanwhile, heated blankets come with a cord that plugs to your cigarette lighter so you can melt into its warmth.