How to Sleep in a Car (and Get a Lot of Rest)

Times may come when you have to spend a night in your car.

Like when you’ve been driving for a long time, get tired, and there aren’t any motels around (or you just don’t want to pay for one).

Or when want to be the first at a certain festival and you just have to sleep a night in your car to be there on time…

Regardless of the reason, you need to know how to turn your 4-wheeled vehicle in a 4-wheeled bed!


Car Sleeping Is Not as Easy as You’d Think

Whether it’s just a night or multiple nights, you should know how to prepare yourself for it because it’s not as easy as you might think.

You can’t just lock the doors and shut down. Nope, sir! There are plenty of things, some of which even vital, you have to do before closing your eyes and dreaming of the following day.

Therefore, let’s prepare your bed sheets and tell you, step by step, how to properly sleep in a car and get lots of rest as well.


Safety First

1. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Cars

The most important thing you must do before sleeping safe and sound is to turn off your engine. No matter how cold or how warm it is, you can’t keep the car’s engine open because there’s the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is fatal.

You can get as comfy as you want – but keep the engine off, because, in this case, a bit less comfy means a lot more alive…

2. Security

Obviously, all doors must be shut. The same goes for windows and the sunroof. But you might want to let one of them a bit cracked, in order to prevent the sauna effect that might occur overnight.

In really cold weather, you actually should keep a window a bit open.  It seems counterintuitive, but leaving a window open will prevent condensation. The condensation will cause you to get wet, which in turn will make you colder.

3. Legalities

In terms of parking, you should park in an area that allows you to do so. You don’t want any legal problems just for trying to get some sleep. Stores, rest stops and sometimes churches have parking lots that are usually free, and you can use them safely.

You have to try and find a safe environment to park your car in. If you have trouble finding one, some nifty apps like AllStays and Hipcamp can provide you with locations that allow you to park legally.


Crafting Your Bed

Step 1: Gathering Materials

If you are a regular vehicle sleeper, you are already prepared for this night with a sleeping bag, blankets and pillows.  There is even a cool inflatable mattress for cars that you can get.

This inflatable car mattress only costs about $30. You can get it here.


But, if you are a one-timer and find yourself with little to no resources, you have to craft the bed.

First of all, you’ll have to gather any type of material that can be used as a part of the bed. You can use towels for the mattress, even extra clothes you might have in your car or anything that’s soft enough for you to rest on.

You’ll want to use these materials to stuff pressure points. For example, if you are sleeping in the front seat, use towels to fill the area under your hips.  You’ll also want to use them to prop your head/neck into a better position.


Step 2: Choose Your Spot

This is dependent on your car size. If you have a small car, you can recline the front seat as much as possible and that’s pretty much it. It’s not very comfortable, but if you do your bedding properly, add some extra towels in the key points, you’ll sleep pretty well and wake up almost fully charged.

If you own a medium car there should be enough space for you to sleep in the backseat. This will provide you with the special skill called almost fully stretched. It is best if you are a curling sleeper as this will be the position morning will find you in. But, again, if it is properly set up, it will provide you with enough comfort for a good sleep.

For larger cars, you can basically recline the front seats and get something very close to a double-sized bed. If you use the backseats, your feet can easily fit in the trunk and you’ll be fully stretched and able to sleep in any position you want.

sleeping in backseat of car

Sticking your feet in the trunk is a good way to fully stretch out in your car.

sleeping in a car trunk

You might have to be creative when choosing where to sleep!


Cover Windows

To prevent any jump scares caused by any beggars that might approach your car – or just to prevent being woken up early in the morning by the sun — you can use any remaining clothes to cover up the windows. This adds to your privacy as well as to your security because being seen sleeping in a car might get you into some trouble.

Oh, by the way, remember to take your shoes off if you already didn’t until you’ve reached this step! Also make sure to wear loose clothes for the comfiest sleep of your life – that is, in a vehicle.


Keep Supplies Nearby

Make sure you have everything you need within reach.  You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and have to search for supplies.

You’ll need a bottle of water nearby. Your smartphone, flashlight, and keys too.

Now all you have to do at the end of the day on four wheels is to just lay back – as much as you can – sleep tight and rest well!


cal mountain leonAuthor Bio: Cal Bailey is the guy behind Mountain Leon – a travel blog he started after two years on backpacking around the world.

Image credits: “Sleeping in the Crown Vic” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by bradjward
“Car camping” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by foreverdigital

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