Life Hacks for Sleeping in Your Car Comfortably

You’re on a long road trip, and before you know it, your eyes start to drift closed. You know that you can’t keep driving safely because you risk falling asleep at the wheel, but the nearest hotel is too far or too expensive. You go for option number three: taking a refreshing catnap in your car so you can get back on the road safely in a few hours. In fact, if you’re an overlanding enthusiast, this idea might not be all that foreign to you, but there are still some important things to keep in mind when camping out in your car.

Safe places to pull-over

The most important factor to keep in mind if you do end up choosing to take a nap in your car is safety. You should never pull off at any arbitrary location and make that your camping spot for the night, just like you shouldn’t park on the side of the road. Finding a safe location with security cameras is important, but there are a few other things to keep in mind.

While it might be tempting depending on the weather conditions, you should never leave your car running while you sleep inside of it. You should make sure that the car is ventilated for airflow, usually by leaving the windows cracked, but you don’t want to leave your windows far enough down that someone can reach in.

Overlooking a ford f-150 dash while going over a bridge at sunrise
Dunlawton Bridge, Daytona beach, Florida

Comfort

Getting comfortable in a car is a lot trickier as adults than it was when we were kids. Even if you’re the type of person who can fall asleep practically anywhere, that doesn’t mean you won’t wake up with an aching back and hip pain. Of course, the extent to which you can stretch out depends on many factors, like what type of vehicle you drive and how much space you have to spread out if there are other people or things in the cabin with you.

Whether you are reclining in your seat, stretching out on open floor space, or camping in the bed of your pickup, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the ergonomics of how you are resting. While it’s not as ideal as sleeping in a bed, making sure you’re head and neck are in a comfortable position, using a pillow or something makeshift like a rolled-up hoodie can help prevent a stiff neck. You also want to ensure that you aren’t resting on anything bumpy that could cause you pain after pressing against it for hours.

The black-leather driver's seat and dashboard of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R
2022 Volkswagen Golf R interior | Volkswagen

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Getting back on the road

If you’re like me, you might not wake up from a nap feeling all that refreshed. In fact, when I’ve had to pull into hospital parking lots for a quick mid-road trip nap, I often find myself feeling more groggy in the first few minutes after waking up. Getting out and stretching for a few minutes can help relieve any tension from sleeping in any uncomfortable position, and help you get re-oriented on your journey ahead. Some water or coffee doesn’t hurt, either, to help you feel refreshed and ready to get rolling.

A family prepares for a road trip
1960s FAMILY FATHER LOADING CAR AND TRAILER | H. Armstrong Roberts, ClassicStock, Getty Images

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