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13 Ways to Sleep Better in an RV

Whether you’re embarking on your first RV trip or you’re a seasoned pro, there are challenges that can happen, particularly with getting quality rest. Vacations can often mean sleeping in a smaller area and on unfamiliar beds. However, vacationing in an RV can present unique sleeping issues, such as your bedroom being inside a moving vehicle or outside distractions you wouldn’t normally have at home.

The upside, though, is that you don’t have to endure sleepless nights during your trip. With a little planning, your RV sleep schedule can be a dream. In this article, we’ll break down 13 ways to help you get quality sleep in an RV.

How to Sleep Better in an RV

1. Set Up the Ideal Sleeping Environment

Before embarking on your grand RV adventure, take some time to set up an ideal sleeping environment. An area that is conducive to sleep will help you unwind and fall into a restful slumber that will leave you rejuvenated for the next day.

  • Comfortable mattress or mattress topper – Just like at home, a good night’s sleep is largely dependent on your mattress. Although you can use regular mattresses in an RV, you will probably want to get mattresses that have been designed specifically for RVs. We’ve made a list of the best RV mattresses to help you choose one. Also, if you don’t want to replace your RV’s mattresses, you can instead get an RV mattress topper that are made to fit the dimensions of your recreational vehicle’s bed.When shopping for a new mattress or topper, look at important qualities like firmness, supportiveness, and cooling. This will make your RV sleeping environment more comfortable.
  • Temperature control – As bedtime approaches, your body temperature begins to drop. This is a biological signal that it’s time to get some rest. Keeping your RV and bed cool will reinforce this signal to help you fall asleep quicker.Once you have fallen asleep, a cold room can promote quality rest because cool air can stimulate melatonin production[1], a hormone that promotes sleep. Additionally, a lower body temperature slows down your metabolism[2]. This means that you won’t expend as much energy during the night, making you more likely to have uninterrupted sleep.
  • Block out light – Sleeping in a dark room helps you produce melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps promote sleep1. This is part of the body’s circadian rhythm, which is prompted by lightness and darkness cues. By blocking out external light, this tells our body it’s time for bed and our melatonin production isn’t interrupted, which can allow us to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.Additionally, being exposed to light at night can affect your immune system[3], and this could cause you to get sick during your vacation.
  • Minimize noise – Sleeping in an RV may mean that you are in tighter quarters than you are at home. As a result, you could be disturbed by snoring or even the coming and going of someone who keeps a different schedule. Additionally, if you are parked in an RV campground, you may be at the mercy of your fellow campers.Therefore, it will be important to find ways to minimize external sounds[4] in order to increase the amount of deep sleep you get and help prevent being awakened throughout the night.

2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Once you have established an ideal sleeping environment in your RV, it will be time to create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind from a busy day and facilitate sleep onset.

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule – The freedom from schedules and the overall excitement of a vacation can cause our sleep schedule to get out of wack. We may justify staying up later because we can sleep in the next day. However, going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day can make it easier to fall asleep. Furthermore, a consistent sleep schedule can help stabilize your mood[5] and prevent anxiety and depression over time.
  • Engage in calming activities before bed – After a long day of exploring, it may be harder than usual to wind down. To help you get ready for a restorative night’s sleep in your RV, try some meditative movements[6], like those found in Tai Chi and yoga, which have been found to have a calming effect. Another option is to read a book. Reading is an activity that engages your brain but doesn’t physically stimulate you, and this can relax your body and mind until falling into a restful state. Additionally, researchers[7] have found that reading a book before going to sleep improved overall sleep quality.
  • Avoid screentime – When traveling in an RV, there will be times when our smartphones or tablets will be invaluable. However, right before bed is not one of those times. Screens[8] of all shapes and sizes should be avoided around bedtime. Mindlessly scrolling can distract you and keep you up later than you intended, while “doom-scrolling” before bed can lead to heightened anxiety, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Furthermore, the blue light from your phone mimics daylight, which can suppress melatonin production[9] and make you feel more alert.

Now that you understand why it is important to set up an ideal sleeping environment and understand the significance of establishing a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine, let’s go over some specific ways you can accomplish this in your RV.

3. Manage Lighting

  • Minimize artificial light sources inside the RV before bed – As bedtime approaches, turn off as many lights, including overhead lights, lamps, and screens, as possible. This will signal to your body that it is time for sleep.
  • Use dimmable lights or install adjustable lighting fixtures – Dimmable and adjustable lights are a convenient way to control your lighting. If you still want some light at night, dimmable and adjustable switches and remotes make it easier to adjust them to your nighttime activities before turning them completely off.
  • Use a sleep mask – Sleepmasks are a convenient and easily packable way to block out light on a personal level. They are a budget-friendly option and come in a variety of fabrics.

4. Control Noise

  • Park in quieter areas or use earplugs – To ensure that you stick to your bedtime schedule and get plenty of quality sleep, it may be necessary for you to park your RV in a more remote spot of the campground, away from the buzz of other guests. For times when this isn’t possible, you will want to keep earplugs on hand. These are also handy if any of the occupants in your camper snore.
  • Consider using a portable fan or a white noise machine – Although the constant noise of a portable fan or a white noise machine may not be for everyone, for others, it can be a big help. Also, if you’re unsure if this could be beneficial for you, keep in mind that research[10] has found that adults fell asleep 38 percent faster while listening to white noise, and study participants who lived in a high-noise area of New York City spent more time asleep when a fan or machine was dulling external city sounds.
  • Communicate with fellow RV occupants to maintain a quiet environment – Given that not everyone in your camper may have the same schedule or they may need different amounts of sleep in general, it is a good idea to establish guidelines about how you will work together to maintain a quiet environment between certain hours.

5. Optimize Temperature Regulation

  • Use proper insulation for the RV – Most RVs are insulated with fiberglass that is installed behind the wall. If you have a new RV, this shouldn’t be a problem as it should come standard. However, if you’re buying or renting an older model, you’ll want to double-check that the insulation is in working order because if it isn’t, your RV may get too hot, which can disturb your sleep. Fiberglass insulation does tend to break down faster, but fortunately, it is generally inexpensive and easy to install.
  • Utilize fans or air conditioning – Most newer RVs will have two or three air conditioners. However, if your RV isn’t equipped with any, you can use portable air conditioners and fans to keep your sleeping environment cool.
  • Dress in breathable sleepwear – Wearing breathable, lightweight sleepwear can help keep you cool and comfortable through the night. Pajamas made from organic cotton, linen, and bamboo are great options.

6. Minimize Bed Movement

  • Invest in stabilizers or anti-vibration devices to reduce movement – Given the size of RVs, it is not surprising that they may be prone to swaying or vibrating when in motion. Fortunately, you can add stabilizers and anti-vibration devices to minimize this and help you sleep better when the RV is being driven.
  • Arrange heavier objects near the center of the RV to stabilize the vehicle – To keep one side of your RV from being weightier than the other, place heavier items in the middle of the RV. This will help with balance and weight distribution.

7. Consider Sleep-Friendly RV Modifications

  • Install blackout curtains or shadesBlackout curtains and thicker shades can help keep your RV dark enough for restful sleep. This could be particularly helpful in an RV as you may be trying to sleep when someone else is driving and this would block out the light from headlights of other cars. Additionally, if you are parked in a campground, light-blocking curtains can keep out the lights being used by your fellow RV campers.
  • Upgrade the RV’s suspension system for a smoother ride – Considering that there will be times when someone is sleeping while another RV occupant is driving, you may want to consider upgrading your RVs suspension system. This will help eliminate being awakened by body rolls that can happen around turns and curves, and it can lessen the impact of hitting potholes or other dips in the road.
  • Add additional soundproofing materials to reduce noise transmission – To ensure a quiet RV ride, you can also add dampening products such as acoustic tiles or panels, and you can fill in small gaps where air may leak. These products can reduce the volume of noise that you can hear inside the vehicle.

8. Opt for Quality Bedding

  • Choose bedding materials that promote airflow and temperature regulation – Covering your RV bed in cooler bedding can help with temperature regulation. Look for materials such as cotton and bamboo, which are naturally cooling. Additionally, many manufacturers add specific cooling technology to their textiles to help you sleep cooler.
  • Select comfortable pillows that suit your sleeping preferences – Pillows come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. It is important to use ones that help keep your spine neutral when sleeping. Additionally, many pillows have cooling properties to help regulate your body temperature.
  • Use moisture-wicking sheets to prevent overheating and discomfort – Sheets that wick away sweat can help keep you cool and dry when sleeping in your RV.

9. Stay Hydrated

  • Drink enough water throughout the day – Staying hydrated is important for your overall health and well-being. However, if you’re not properly hydrated, it could negatively impact your sleep quality. For instance, you may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty. Furthermore, insufficient sleep may increase your chances of becoming dehydrated[11].
  • Limit fluids close to bedtime to prevent disruptions from bathroom trips – Although proper hydration is important, it is also a good idea to drink more water during the day and then start to taper off as bedtime approaches. This way, you’re less likely to get up to use the restroom during the night.

10. Manage External Distractions

  • Park away from busy roads or sources of excessive noise – To avoid frustration from the noise of busy roads or popular tourist sites, park your RV in a quiet, peaceful spot.
  • Use window coverings to minimize visual distractions – For times when you may have to park in more populated areas or near busy roads, invest in window coverings. Curtains and shades can help us stay focused on our nightly routine rather than what is going on outside of the RV.
  • Communicate with campground neighbors to ensure a peaceful environment – Considering that we can’t control our campground neighbors’ bedtime routines, it may be a good idea to reach out to them and set a friendly agreement about what time music will be turned off and voices will be at a lowered volume. It is always good to remember, though, that your fellow campers don’t have to adhere to your schedule. However, if they are approached in a pleasant and friendly manner, it may eliminate any issues.

11. Incorporate Relaxation Techniques

  • Practice deep breathing or meditation before sleepMeditation and deep breathing are known to have a calming effect, which can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Consider using aromatherapy – Filling your RV with scents such as lavender, jasmine, or peppermint can help you get relaxed for bed. You can also consider using a pillow mist.
  • Try gentle stretching or yoga to relax the body and mind – Repetitive and gentle movements like those done when stretching or practicing yoga can alleviate anxiety. It can also relieve aches and pains that may have accumulated from driving or your daytime activities.

12. Stay Active and Exercise

  • Engage in physical activities during the day – Physical activity is of the utmost importance to your overall health[12], and it can help you sleep better. When traveling by RV, there may be days when it is hard to get in time for exercise, especially if you need to do a lot of driving. However, regular moderate exercise can improve your sleep quality[13] and extend sleep duration.
  • Take advantage of outdoor activities – Whenever possible, incorporate outdoor activities that are available in the area you are visiting. This can include hiking, urban exploring, cycling, or swimming. These activities can help expend your energy so you sleep more soundly when you return to your RV.

13. Seek Professional Help if Needed

  • Consult a sleep specialist or healthcare professional for persistent sleep issues – If you have been implementing these tips and are still struggling with sleeping in your RV, there are sleep specialists, therapists, and other healthcare professionals that can further assist you in getting quality sleep.
  • Explore alternative sleep aids – There are plenty of sleep aids that can be purchased at pharmacies and retail stores. However, is always advisable to check with a medical professional before taking these.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make my RV bed more comfortable?

RV beds are available in a variety of materials and types. You can purchase one that closely mimics your bed at home and fits your sleep position preferences. If you are unable to get a new mattress, there are also bed toppers. If your RV mattress is too firm or keeps you warm, helpful accessories can add plushness and cooling.

In addition to mattresses and mattress toppers, using quality bedding, such as breathable sheets and pillows, can also make your bed more comfortable.

What are the best types of mattresses or mattress toppers for an RV?

Although you can use regular beds in RVs, if possible, it is best to use mattresses that are specifically designed for use in RVs. This is because many RV beds are shorter and narrower so that they will more easily fit in the unique spaces of these vehicles. Also, mattresses that are similar to the type of mattress that you prefer or use at home can provide you with familiar comforts.

What are some relaxation techniques or practices I can incorporate to improve sleep in an RV?

It is important to allow yourself to relax and unwind once you return to your RV. This may mean that you want to reach for your phone or tablet for some mindless scrolling. However, you should avoid doing that whenever possible.

This is because the blue light from these devices will make it more difficult to sleep9. Additionally, we may think that we are mindlessly scrolling, but we are actually keeping our brains engaged and possibly even ramping up our anxiety.

Are there any specific exercises or activities that can help promote better sleep in an RV?

When possible, get out of the RV and engage in physical activity. This can include hiking, exploring the urban landscape, riding a bike, or swimming. Daily moderate exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.

Understandably, you may not always be able to get out and exercise. During these times, you should engage in activities such as stretching, yoga, or meditation at the end of the day. Practicing these can help you release anxiety, work out aches and pains, and relax before bed.

Conclusion

Minimizing noise, blocking out light, and keeping your environment at a cool temperature are pertinent for falling asleep and staying asleep. You should also make sure that your mattress, bedding, and pillows are comfortable. Other techniques that you may want to try are stretching or reading before bed, using a white noise machine, and filling your camper with relaxing scents such as lavender.

Traveling and exploring in an RV is an excellent way to experience incredible places, but you may need to take extra steps to ensure you’re well-rested along the way. While it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you, prioritizing your sleep will not only make your RV experience more enjoyable, but healthier as well.

Sosha Lewis

Sosha Lewis

Content Writer

About Author

Sosha Lewis is a staff writer for Sleep Advisor.  Lewis is happy that she is able to combine her love of sleep with her love of writing.

Combination Sleeper

References

  1. Xu, Xiaoying., Liu, Xiaoyan., et al. “Associations of Melatonin Production with Seasonal Changes, Low Temperature, and Immuno-Responses in Hamsters”. National Library of Medicine. 2018.
  2. Landsberg, Lewis., Young, James B., et al. “Do the Obese Have Lower Body Temperatures? A New Look at a Forgotten Variable in Energy Balance”. National Library of Medicine. 2019.
  3. Bedrosian, Tracy A., Fonken, Laura K., et al. “Chronic exposure to dim light at night suppresses immune responses in Siberian hamsters”. National Library of Medicine. 2011.
  4. Fietz MD PhD, Ingo., Barthe, Charlotte., et al. “The Effect of Room Acoustics on the Sleep Quality of Healthy Sleepers”. 2016.
  5. Gaven, Kara. “Irregular Sleep Connected to Bad Moods and Depression, Study Shows”. University of Michigan. 2021.
  6. Wang, Fan., Eun-Kyoung Lee, Othelia., et al. “The effect of meditative movement on sleep quality: A systematic review”. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2016.
  7. Finucane, Elaine, O’Brien, Ann, et al. “Does reading a book in bed make a difference to sleep in comparison to not reading a book in bed? The People’s Trial—an online, pragmatic, randomised trial”. National Library of Medicine. 2021.
  8. Why You Should Ditch Your Phone Befoe Bed”. Cleveland Clinic. 2022.
  9. Blue light has a dark side”. Harvard Medical School. 2020.
  10. Messineo, Ludovico., Taranto-Montemurro, Luigi., et al. “Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia”. National Library of Medicine. 2017.
  11. Rosinger, Asher Y., Chang, Anne-Marie., et al. “Short sleep duration is associated with inadequate hydration: cross-cultural evidence from US and Chinese adults”. National Library of Medicine. 2019.
  12. Physical Activity Basics”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Webpage accessed June 29, 2024.
  13. Dolezal, Brett A., Neufeld, Eric V. “Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review”. National Library of Medicine. 2017.