here's how to actually get some sleep at a festival
Think it's impossible to get some shut eye at a festival? Think again
image The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001, Touchstone Pictures
words Sophie Lou Wilson
Whether it’s the bass line still thrumming away or the drunken deep chat that's going on just outside your tent, getting to sleep at a festival is no small feat. Add to that the discomfort of sleeping in a bag on the literal ground and the alcohol or other substances coursing through your system and there's a lot that could get in the way of you and a good night's sleep.
The good news is that a few days of little sleep is unlikely to have any long term negative health effects, but it will leave you feeling pretty rubbish when you drag your sorry self back into work on Tuesday. “The festival environment is unlike anything else,” says Nathan Penman, health and wellbeing physiologist at Nuffield Health. “You’re in a tent. It can be hot. It’s loud and there are inevitably very late nights. So, is it still possible to get a good night’s sleep? Absolutely.” Below, Penman talks us through his top tips.
Choose your campsite wisely
First things first, if you’re prioritising sleep at a festival, it’s worth doing your research before you go and trying not to camp in the party area or near the stages that play music until 6AM. “There is usually a quiet camping section in festivals, so you can try pitching there,” says Penman. “If you want to still be in the main section, try and pick one a little bit further from the main area – the campsites on the outskirts tend to be a bit calmer – and away from areas where there are bars or food huts where you are more likely to be surrounded by more people.” For some festivals, you can find info online about what to expect from different areas of the campsite. If you want a good night’s sleep, try camping further away from the main arena. Sure, you’ll have to walk for longer, but if you’re well rested, your body won’t mind getting the extra steps in. Plus, you’re more likely to tire yourself out so you’re ready to sleep when you get back to the tent.
Make your environment as dark and quiet a possible
If you’re going to a festival at the height of summer, there might only be around six hours of darkness and, let’s be honest, you’ll probably be awake for most of it. Darkness, however, is important for a good night’s sleep. “Natural light is a stimulant for our brain,” says Penman, “and before alarms existed, our body’s circadian rhythm used to regulate itself from the rise and fall of the sun which is still ingrained in us.” He recommends investing in a blackout tent, but if you’re looking for something quicker and easier at the last minute, you can’t go far wrong with a classic eye mask. We like this one from Drowsy Sleep Co. to block out light so you can truly switch off and get some sleep.
Plan to get enough sleep
Try counting ahead to figure out your ideal bedtime. Of course, part of the joy of festivals is their spontaneity so you don’t have to stick to this religiously, but your body will thank you for getting at least seven hours rest per night. “It’s recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours sleep per night so try to plan your nights accordingly so you can get as much quality sleep as possible,” suggests Penman. You might be able to manage with an hour or two less if you’re only there for a few days, but try and plan for at least seven hours rest time, even if you’re not asleep the entire time.
Stop drinking alcohol a few hours before going to sleep
Festivals can be centres of hedonism and you might be consuming more alcohol – and other substances – than usual. It goes without saying that this isn’t exactly conducive to the best night’s sleep. “While alcohol can assist with the initial onset of sleep due to its sedative properties, it can cause disruptions later in the night as the liver works overtime to clear the toxin, therefore interrupting the quality of the sleep,” says Penman. “It’s recommended that you should stop drinking four hours prior to sleep to give your body the most time to recover.” So, day drinking! Festivals might be one of the only places where it’s acceptable to drink a warm cider at 11am without it looking like your life is falling apart. If you want to drink alcohol and still get a decent night’s sleep, try switching to water a few hours’ before bedtime – your body will thank you in the morning too. The same goes for other substances, particularly stimulants. Give your body time to wind down so you don’t end up lying awake at sunrise with a racing heart counting down the hours until you need to get up to see your favourite band.
If you’ve not been getting enough sleep, you might feel groggy and slow, but ultimately, a few days of little sleep isn’t going to affect you long term. The human body is resilient to the odd night of bad sleep in the long term so the occasional night won’t have long term health effects," says Penman, "so stay calm and don’t let it get to you or it’ll make the following days and nights worse! It’s easier said than done, but try not to lie awake feeling anxious about the fact that you might not get a full eight hours sleep. If you manage to really sleep well, you’ll be in the minority, anyway. Tents aren’t comfy. People are loud. But these are the sacrifices we make for what could be the best weekend of our lives.
Below, we’ve rounded up some festival sleep essentials to help you recreate that homely bedroom feel even if you’re lying on a camping mat in the middle of a muddy field.
Blocking out daylight is one of the top expert tips for getting to sleep at a festival. If you don’t have a blackout tent, an eye mask will do the trick. This one from Drowsy Sleep Co. is designed to block out the maximum amount of light, for next level beauty sleep in total darkness. It’s made from padded silk so you can bring a little slice of luxury to your festival experience. Just try not to sleep through your favourite act!
Penman’s top tip for getting to sleep at a festival is to try and recreate the same environment you would create to go to sleep at home. So, if you use a pillow mist to wind down, why not bring one along to the festival? Lavender and chamomile are known for their relaxing, calming qualities. What’s more, it’ll hide the smell of you and your tentmates not having showered for days.
Ross J. Barr’s sleep patches are specially formulated to help aid and support the induction and depth of sleep. The essential oils provide a unique smell that elicits a deeply relaxing olfactive experience while herbs are selected for their ability to calm the mind and sustain a deeper sleep. Apply one patch to each temple as you're getting ready to sleep and keep them on until you get up.
dream a little dream
Fewe’s Dream A Little Dream oral spray is formulated with the natural sedative Valerian and calming chamomile to help regulate sleeping patterns. The cherry tasting spray is designed specifically to manage the fluctuating sleeping patterns throughout the menstrual cycle, but it can also help balance sleeping schedules disrupted by festivals too.
Staying hydrated is always a good idea, even if sleeping isn’t your main concern. Drinking enough water is important, but when you’re rushing around and wanting to avoid the dreaded festival loos as much as possible, it’s easy to not quite drink enough. That’s where these hydration supplements come in. Simply dissolve one a day in water to dose up on some much-needed electrolytes and minerals designed to support optimal hydration and muscle function. Your body will thank you.
Festivals might not be the place to whip out your 10-step skincare routine, but at the very least, take some moisturiser with you to stop that horrible tight skinned feeling after spending the day in the sun. UpCircle Beauty’s night cream – in travel size so it’s easier to bring with you – is a nourishing blend of niacinamide to help even skin tone, rosehip oil for boosting skin regeneration overnight and hyaluronic acid to heal and hydrate. Massage it gently into your skin to feel pampered and relaxed before drifting off to sleep.
for the dreamers
Festival veterans will know that a pillow can make all the difference. This one from House Babylon is adjustable to allow its fill to be added or removed so you can make it as compact as you like to travel to the festival. Balancing softness with support, it’s made from cool and lightweight down in a 100% cotton cover. Sweet festival dreams!
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