How to Sleep in Your Car on a Road Trip

Three Methods:Prepping for the TripSleeping while in MotionSleeping Overnight in the Car

When you have the ability to turn the inside of your car into a comfortable sleeping spot, you can sleep in your car anytime on a road trip when you become tired, or if you want to save money on overnight room and board. Sometimes, sleeping in your car is vital and unavoidable, especially if you have trouble staying awake while driving and nobody can take over driving for you. There are many ways you can make your vehicle into a safe and comfortable resting place as well as get the sleep you need while on the road.

Method 1
Prepping for the Trip

  1. Image titled Sleep in Your Car on a Road Trip Step 1
    Bring comfortable bedding. Whether you’re parking for the night or taking a couple hours’ snooze break while your friend drives, you’ll need to make up for the car’s environment. While not impossible to sleep in cars as-is, it can be uncomfortable. You’ll probably bring a bit more if you plan to sleep overnight and not just during the drive.[1]
    • Must-haves are pillows and blankets, or a sleeping bag if you are traveling through regions with cold temperatures. Don’t rely for on your car’s heating absolutely when you plan to sleep overnight.
    • Make sure you bring enough bedding to accommodate your passengers, especially if they are children. If you are taking a road trip with another person and plan on taking turns driving, you could bring one set of pillows and blankets to save on room space inside the car.
    • Be sure to pack these items inside the car and not in the trunk or on the roof. You may get sleepy earlier than you anticipated, and it’s helpful not to have to leave the car when conditions outside aren’t great.
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    Pack comforting items to help you fall asleep. A lot of people have difficulty sleeping in locations other than their beds. Bring soothing items you use regularly to relax in order to make you feel more comfortable in your car.[2]
    • For example, if you enjoy reading before bed, bring a book and book light so you can read before falling asleep.
    • Music is helpful here, but don’t rely on your car stereo. Bring an mp3 player and headphones so that you can still relax to music with the car off before you go to sleep.
    • If you’re especially worried about your ability to fall asleep in the car, consult a pharmacist about over-the-counter sleep aids. Note, however, that you’ll be limited from driving once having taken one until you’ve had at least several hours’ rest.
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    Include coverings for your car windows. For those who are hoping to catch some sleep while a friend drives, you’ll want something to keep the sun from your eyes. Those who are burdened with an overnight stay will need coverings to ensure their privacy.
    • Towels and t-shirts that you’re bringing anyway are a great help here. Provided the t-shirts are large enough, either of these can be used as efficient window covers.
    • Bring along some clothespins or tape to attach the covers. If you’ve forgotten, you can simply close the doors on the cover you’re using with it slightly above the door frame; it will hang, caught between the door and the car.
    • Bring a hat and sunglasses if you plan on sleeping during daylight hours. Wearing a hat and sunglasses while you sleep will protect your face from any sun still getting in, and may also help you sleep better while providing additional privacy.

Method 2
Sleeping while in Motion

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    Assume the position. Sleeping while the car is moving is never simple, as you have to keep your seatbelt on and sleep in a seated position. There’s no one right way to do this, and it may take you a while to get situated and comfortable.
    • Take a reclinable seat, if possible. Many front passenger seats will allow you to recline the back fully. Provided no one is sitting behind you, this is the best way to duplicate a flat sleeping area.
    • Rest your head on your pillow against the window. If you’re unable to use a reclining seat, the next best thing for hanging your head is to use the window.
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    Let the driver know. The enemy of the road trip nap is the unruly driver. Shakes, bumps and hard turns can ruin your sleeping experience and leave you restless. Be sure the driver knows of your intention to get some shut-eye so they can drive accordingly.
    • Remind them that you’ll be doing the same in their situation if you plan on switching roles later on. This way they’re more open to match thoughtfulness with thoughtfulness.
    • Also check with the driver before covering any windows to block out the light. The driver may very well need those to check blind spots and the rest of the road. Sunglasses and a hat are a little more handy here.
    • Keep the music under control. You don’t want to be jarred awake by heavy metal after an hour only because you forgot to take the mp3 player off of shuffle.
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    Accept what sleep you can get. Even when you’ve planned, prepped, and done every you could’ve to ensure a long sleep, the unavoidable bump or uncontrollable car horn will inevitably interrupt you. Keep a positive attitude even when drowsy and cranky, and know that you hope your driving companions will do the same.
    • Bring along a sleeping mask to cover your eyes for sudden wakefulness. If something jolts you awake, you won’t be disoriented and jarred by sudden sun or streetlight. The mask will keep your eyes in darkness allowing you to drift back to sleep shortly.[3]

Method 3
Sleeping Overnight in the Car

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    Choose a safe location in which to park your car. A safe location should be away from traffic and stores entrances, in a spot that allows for extended or overnight parking. Some locations have strict rules in place and prohibit overnight parking, so you may become towed or fined if you park in these locations.
    • Whether or not sleeping in your car will get you a ticket is totally dependent on where you are. Check local and state regulations whenever traveling. Never sleep on the side of the road or highway.
    • Park at a designated rest stop, or 24-hour parking lot. Many interstates and highways have overnight rest stops you can park at and sleep in overnight while on road trips. This is really the best option to avoid interruption either by the public or by law enforcement.
    • Find a 24-hour store. Wal-Mart is the big name in this category. Some locations have explicit rules against over-nighters, however, so check online or in the store before you shut eyes for the night.[4]
    • Park somewhere reasonably well-lit. Though it might seem counter-intuitive to trying to sleep, it’s best for your safety to park in a lot with plenty of light.
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    Turn the car off. Leave the keys out of the ignition. There is the possibility of breaking the law if you fall asleep with your keys in the ignition; you may be considered "in operation" of your car while asleep. Keep your doors locked and your keys in your pocket.
    • If you're traveling in very cold temperatures, you may need to wake up periodically to run the car for warmth. Be sure to stay awake while the car is running.
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    Crack your windows or sunroof for ventilation. By allowing air to enter or circulate throughout the inside of the car, you will sleep more comfortably and avoid waking up feeling hot and sticky, or with condensation on the windows.
    • If you end up somewhere relatively populated or crowded, this might not be the best idea. The noise level might be too much to bear with cracked windows. You’d also like to avoid anyone looking in on you.
    • This is also not necessary or even advisable if you’re traveling in very cold temperatures.
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    Find a comfortable sleeping position. Luckily when the car isn’t in motion you’ll have a variety of options. Hopefully you won’t have anyone to share the car with for optimal space. Depending on the type of car you have, you might end up in several different positions.[5]
    • Ideally you’ll have a hatchback or some other type of car which opens into the trunk from the back seat. If you can put the back seat down and open up trunk space for your legs, this will be the best way to stretch out.
    • When driving a pick-up truck, clear space in the bed of the truck (appropriately named here) to sleep in. You'll want to consider a tarp over the bed to keep out insects.
    • If you're on the shorter side, an empty back seat can make for a usable bed. You'll most likely need to curl your legs for the night so if you're prone to move while you sleep this might end up uncomfortable.
    • At the very least sleep in a fully reclined seat. Being able to lie down at least partially mimics the usual environment of sleeping in a bed.
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    Follow a morning routine after waking. This practice will help you wake up feeling fresh and more comfortable, especially if you have a full day of driving ahead of you. Sleeping in a car can sometimes make you feel especially dirty or cramped, so take the time to stretch and clean up.
    • If you were fortunate enough to stop at a rest stop, take the time to have a shower and brush your teeth at their facilities.
    • Keep some bottled water handy for the exclusive use of these morning ablutions. When you’re stuck with nothing else, it’ll come in handy to wash your face or brush your teeth.

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