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How to Get Better Sleep in an RV, Wherever You Travel

Published on January 11th, 2024 by Lucinda Belden

Ask any RVer who frequently travels, and they will tell you that getting better sleep in an RV is a big challenge. When you mix the excitement of travel with substandard factory RV mattresses, time zone changes, unfamiliar campground locations, and strange sounds outside your camper, and the result is often poor sleep and drowsy driving.

Before you bundle up everything and put the brakes on your RVing dream, let’s try a few things that are super successful to help travelers get better sleep in an RV.  I do a combination of these items as a full-time RVer and regularly get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep in Total Darkness

Sleepfoundation.org says as a rule, it is best to avoid bright lights at night, and sleep in as much darkness as possible. Pitch darkness reduces potential distractions and disruptions to sleep. It is the best way to signal to your body it is time to rest. 

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A quick option for creating a totally dark sleep environment is to add blackout curtains and day/night shades to your RV bedroom. 

If possible, consider which direction you are parking your rig in your campsite. This may help you avoid pesky sunlight streaming into your RV bedroom window when you don’t want it.

Don’t forget that skylights disrupt your circadian rhythm sleep patterns too. Cover these openings for maximum effect on your sleep quality.

Lower The Bedroom Temperature

Keeping things cool, around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, is recommended by all sleep experts. They report that people fall asleep easier, fare better and sleep longer. SleepAdvisor.org says, “Your body temperature bottoms out right before bed, and will rise naturally as you get closer to waking.”  

If you are boondocking, it may be a little difficult to maintain colder temperatures and stay cool in summer. Here are some items that are recommended if you can’t lower the temperature with full hookup AC power:

  • Introduce cooling sheets and pillows to your bedding
  • Use a portable air conditioner that pulls lower amps
  • Select moisture wicking or cooling pajamas
  • Try a low amp fan if a breeze is enough to cool you down
  • Park your rig so your bedroom absorbs the least amount of heat
  • Position the RV for maximum airflow
Older man sleeps better in an RV. (Image: Shutterstock)
Use the sounds on nature to help you sleep. (Image: Shutterstock)

Fall Asleep to Relaxing Sleep Sounds

One of the features that helps me get the best sleep is using a sleep sound device.  They come with a whole range of features so you can replicate the relaxing sounds of nature to help you sleep better in an RV. Use a white noise machine or download a smartphone app for a relaxing sound bath with beautiful  background sounds ranging from falling rain to the hushed breezes of a pine forest. 

Some white noise machines are battery-powered which will work best for boondocking.  You can also select sound machines that shut off at specified times.  If you need a certain sound to sleep, look for a smartphone app that can play you a sound selection from a playlist.

Sleep sounds are great for covering up unwanted noises. But if you happen to be camping in an area with wonderful sounds, open the windows and enjoy nature’s sleep sounds during quiet hours.

Carry Sleep Aids

There are several tools at our disposal that can help with better sleep.  The nice thing about most sleep aids – they don’t add a lot of weight to your RV.  These are good options to bring along with you when you are visiting a new location:

Sleep Mask. Mask are not only great for helping block light but, if the weather is warm, you can use a cooling eye mask. Or use a warmed mask when it is cold.  You can also apply lavender to them which has been reported to assist with relaxation.
Scent Misters. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shared studies that “Lavender has been suggested as an excellent natural remedy to treat insomnia and improve the sleep quality”. So try adding this to your bedroom on fake plants, eye masks and in your closets.
Melatonin. HopkinsMedicine.org reports “Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesn’t make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness”.  Try combining this with other natural sleep aids, like cannabis products (where legal).
Earplugs. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. The type you decide on will depend on how much noise you need to block out.  There are even ones by Bose that have noise masking technology. 

Follow Daily Sleep Rhythms

Develop a nighttime routine that will get you ready to go to sleep. 

First, stick to a sleep schedule. The closer you can stick to a bedtime routine in the evening and stick to waking up at a specific hour in the morning, the better the odds your sleep will improve. These little adjustments will help your body prepare for sleep.  

Also, avoid electronic device blue light and don’t eat within a couple of hours before bed. You want your body working hard to help you sleep, not digest food or recover from computer eye strain.

Create a routine you will be able to do in different environments, altitudes, and temperatures. You want to make it easy so you can stick with it during your RV travels. But if you are crossing time zones to your destination, it helps to incrementally adjust your bedtime and wakeup time preferences by 15-20 minutes each evening. If you are unable to adjust slowly, adjust your entire schedule to the new time zone.  

Upgrade your RV bed

If none of these recommendations improve the quality of sleep and comfort in your RV, consider spending the money to make your sleeping space and RV bed more comfortable.

Get better blankets, pillows, and sheets. The right RV bedding is a vast improvement over what you get straight from the factory. Spend a little more on bedding than you would in a traditional home, since getting better sleep in an RV is tougher to do when you’re traveling.
If your RV’s cargo carrying capacity is not maximized, consider a weighted blanket. These heavy covers are similar to getting a gentle hug all night, which helps many folks sleep better.
Upgrade your RV mattress pad. Spend the money on a memory foam mattress topper that can curve to your body’s unique shape for better sleep.
Another easy fix is to spend the money on a brand new mattress. Many times this does the trick, since by default even the best RVs leave the factory with some of the least comfortable bedding made. Memory foam mattresses are extra helpful. They don’t make noise when your sleeping partner rolls over or gets out of bed. Many have cooling material that helps keep your bed cool in summer.

Cater to All Five Senses for Better RV Sleep Quality

When you are trying solutions for better sleep in your RV, consider all five senses: hearing, smell, taste, touch, and sight. When all your senses are at peace in the great outdoors by the light of your campfire, you can be relaxed and at peace too.

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