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Blog Sleep Tips How to Sleep at a Summer Music Festival

How to Sleep at a Summer Music Festival

8 min Read

Written by Keith Cushner

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of the debacle that was the Fyre Festival. Pitiful pictures likely took over your social media feeds, revealing the gruesome details in all their glory. “Gourmet” dining consisted of cold cut sandwiches served on pathetic paper plates, while the “luxury” sleep accommodations included damp, half-pitched tents with wet blankets.

It struck a note of fear in everyone attending an overnight summer music festival. Could this happen to you?

Don’t worry. It is possible to have an awesome time at a summer music fest—and sleep well while you’re at it. In fact, a fun summer music festival starts with sleep. The better you sleep, the more you’ll be ready to rock each day.

That’s why we put together these sleep tips for summer music festivals. Follow these, and you’ll enjoy a well-rested summer music fest experience.

20 Top Tips to Sleep at a Summer Music Festival

Our tips run the gamut of the summer music festival experience, from what to pack to what to do during the day to sleep well at night. If you’re ready to enjoy good sleep while camping, read on.

1. Bring a quality tent.

First, choose your tent size wisely. Usually, a safe bet is to choose a tent size rated for at least one more person than you plan on actually having inside the tent, i.e. a three-person tent for two people, or a six-person tent for four. Otherwise, the quarters are going to be a real tight squeeze.

Mesh tents with a rain fly are a good choice, since they can stay breathable during hot summer nights, and keep out the rain during impromptu summer storms. If your festival takes place in the desert, consider a reflective tarp to throw over your tent at night. It will provide an extra layer of insulation, and block out the sun for deeper morning sleep.

Finally, find a way to make your tent noticeable. If you get lost making it back to your tent at night, that’s definitely going to cut into your sleep time. Memorize exactly where your tent is located, using landmarks to help (like a porta potty line or first aid tent), and attach a colorful flag to catch your eye.

Alright, now for what goes in your tent…

2. Invest in a good sleeping bag.

Your sleeping bag is just as important as your tent when it comes to getting good sleep during a summer music festival. You’ll want a bag rated for lower temperatures than you might expect (around 35°F) so you can stay warm, even if the desert temperature drops at night. You’ll also want a bag that’s cushiony enough for you to sleep on top of if it gets too hot.

Want to go super plush? For a more bed-like experience, bring along an air mattress or camping cot instead. Just make sure they’re waterproof and designed for outdoor use.

3. Don’t forget a sleeping mat, too.

A camping pad goes beneath your sleeping bag, helping prevent wear and tear on your sleeping bag, while also ensuring a more comfortable sleep surface. It provides an extra layer to smooth out bumps, rocks, and valleys in the ground.

4. Pack a pillow.

Your head needs something comfortable to lie on. You can bring your own pillow from home, but if you’re worried about exposing it to the elements, you can go with an inflatable travel pillow instead. Choose what makes sense for your comfort and your budget.

If you’re short on space (and don’t mind the risk of waking up with a crick in your neck), you could simply bring a pillowcase and fill it with your clothes at night.

5. Plan to wear layers.

Your clothing, and a blanket or two, can help you fine-tune your comfort as needed. You can snuggle under the blanket if the temperature drops, or just as easily take off a shirt or two if it stays warm. As you strip down, you can even lay these underneath your sleeping bag for extra cushioning.

Where possible, go for breathable cotton and linen. And pack a poncho or rain jacket in case things get wet.

6. Bring an extra towel.

Speaking of getting wet, an extra towel can prove super useful even if you don’t plan on using the communal showers. If it does rain, you’ll want something to dry off with before entering your tent at night. Introducing moisture into your tent can seriously shorten its lifespan, making it prone to mold and gross to sleep in. Keep your tent dry, and it will last you several summer festivals.

7. Sleep sound with earplugs.

Earplugs will block out your chatty neighbors, bugs, and even ambient noise from the festival. But honestly, depending on how deep you sleep, earplugs may not be enough—especially if you go to bed before the last show ends.

If you know you’re a light sleeper, you’ll be better off bringing along some noise-cancelling headphones. Download a white noise playlist that will soothe you to sleep. Bring along a portable charger, too, so your phone and headphones can keep up with your festival needs.

8. Stay cool with a battery-powered fan.

Cool down—and stave off bugs—with a battery-powered fan. Plus, the slight whirr of the fan doubles as white noise, making it even easier for you to fall asleep.

9. Block out the sun with an eye mask.

One of the joys of sleeping in the great outdoors is that it’s much darker than your bedroom at home. There’s no artificial light lining the streets, or tiny LEDs from your TV or computer waking you up.

But, festival camping is by no means light-free. You can’t account for your fellow festival-goers deciding to stay up all night kumbaya-ing while they keep their tent lanterns brightly lit. Or, you may have arrived late and gotten stuck with a campsite right next to one of the main walkways.

Either way, you can block out the light with a towel or tarp on the outside of your tent, and an eye mask on your eyes. Besides helping you enjoy the darkness, these also provide the added benefit of keeping the morning sunlight at bay.

10. Find a quiet camping spot.

If you can, show up to the festival early. This is your best chance for getting a primo spot for your tent. By that, we mean somewhere sheltered from the wind, away from main pathways and restrooms, and in the shade if possible.

Before you pitch your tent, clear the ground of any rocks or pebbles. Then, lie down to see if it’s comfortable. If you’re on an incline, set up your tent so that you head will be higher than your feet.

Once you’re all set up, you can spend the extra time catching a quick catnap before hitting the festival.

11. Secure your tent.

Everyone sleeps better when they feel secure. That’s why people invest in security systems and smart locks for their home. So, bring along a lock and keep your tent secured at all times.

Also, try to minimize bringing any valuables with you in the first place. You don’t want to have to worry about losing these, or be up all night upset about how you lost your favorite piece of jewelry. Keep your valuables on you and secured in a money belt, or in a lockbox in your tent hidden under your pillow.

12. Follow your bedtime routine.

The bedtime routine you follow at home tips off your brain that it’s time to fall asleep. You may be in a different place, but you can help your brain recognize it’s bedtime by following that same bedtime routine when camping. You might have to forego the warm bath, but you can still brush your teeth, read a book, and meditate in the same order you do before going to bed at home.

13. Sleep in what you wear at home.

If you normally sleep naked at home (which is recommended by experts, by the way), sleep naked at the music festival. Just make sure your tent isn’t see-through, as not everyone may be in the mood to see you in the nude.

If you normally wear pajamas, bring along a set for the festival (here are our top picks for men’s and women’s pajamas). Changing into your PJs will get you in a sleepy frame of mind. They’ll also be much more comfortable to sleep in than your sweat-stained festival gear.

14. Soothe your feet.

Exercise helps you sleep well. Fortunately, walking around the music festival and dancing all day takes care of that. But, rocking out takes a toll on the body. Sore and tired muscles can make sleep elusive if you’re in too much pain.

So, give yourself a makeshift spa treatment at night. Take a painkiller, rub on some CBD topicals, or heat up a water bottle.

During the day, come prepared with comfortable shoes that will support you. Gladiator sandals and flip flops may not be the best choice here, however well they go with your festival wear.

15. Protect your skin.

You’re really going to feel uncomfortable laying down at night if your skin is red hot, or worse, searing from sunburns. Lather up with sunscreen during the day, and physically cover up your skin where you can (hats and breathable long-sleeves are your friends here; festival wear, not so much).

If your summer festival takes place somewhere mosquitos call home, bring the bug spray, too, and apply generously before bed.

16. Nap if you have to.

Summer music festivals are exhausting, albeit in a good way. Shows scheduled for the middle of the day can sometimes be a snoozefest. If you find yourself hitting an afternoon slump, feel free to head back to the tent for a midday nap to reenergize yourself for the evening headliners.

Just be sure to limit yourself to 20 to 30 minutes. Nap any longer and you could wake up feeling groggier than before.

17. Watch what you eat.

Good, sleep-promoting food includes kale, cherries, banana, nuts, whole grains, cheese, fish, and other foods that fall in a generally “healthy” category. From fried oreos to bbq tacos, festival food is pretty much the opposite of that.

But if you do what you can to eat healthy, you’ll avoid having an upset stomach (and minimize how much time you spend in the porta potty). Pack along your own healthy snacks, like nut packs and dried fruit. Or, host your own cookout. Bring along a portable stove with breads, sandwich toppings, and pre-assembled meat or veggie skewers, and you can cook your own meals.

Also, stop eating and drinking about two hours before bed, save for a few sips of water to stay hydrated. You don’t want to go to bed on a full stomach, or you’re setting yourself up for a midnight bathroom break.

18. Stay hydrated.

This is arguably the most important tip on this list. When you’re not hydrated, you’re tired, grumpy, and you feel physically unwell. We’re talking nausea, dizziness, and dried mouth. And when you’re feeling that way, you’ll have a tougher time falling asleep.

When you’re at a music festival, you’ll naturally lose a lot more water than you normally would, simply due to being out in the sun all day. So drink more than usual, and bring along your own water bottle, so it’s easy to fill up as needed.

Watch your alcohol consumption, too—it’s dehydrating and disruptive for your sleep.

19. Use the toilet before bed.

Tents are hard to see in the dark. Nothing’s worse than making a long trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and getting lost on your way back. Avoid this scenario by using the restroom before you head to bed. Bring some body wipes and your own toilet paper, too. There’s no guarantee they’ll keep the restrooms stocked.

20. Still feeling wired?

Wind down with a melatonin or sleep-inducing lavender essential oil spray. Do some deep breathing exercises or practice meditation. When all else fails, close your eyes and count sheep.

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