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Sleep Better Now: Improve Your Backcountry ZZZ’s

Our restless guinea pig snooze-tested the latest science and gear to bring you a simple plan that's guaranteed to improve your backcountry ZZZ's.
Sleep BetterCourtesy Jeff Beal

Say Goodnight
Six sleep tips from the experts

Stop hiking three hours before bed. “Exercise itself should help bring sleep, but not if you’re active right up to bedtime,” says Dr. Thomas Reilly of Liverpool John Moores University. Why? Exertion releases the stimulating hormone cortisol.

Give yourself three hours to digest dinner–a full belly can disrupt slumber. But a light snack sometimes helps, advises Mary Susan Esther, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Try caffeine-free hot cocoa or a chunk of cheese; dairy products combined with carbs help promote drowsiness.

Skip the caffeine (and nicotine) in the four to six hours before bed–it keeps you alert by blocking sleep-inducing adenosine in your brain, and can take hours to wear off.

Don’t nap after 3 p.m. A short (one hour or less) catnap can perk you up, but doing it too late in the day diminishes your natural sleep drive, leaving you too alert at bedtime.

Go to bed at your usual time. Your body’s sleep/wake rhythms stick to a regular schedule, and it’s very difficult to shift them for a night or two.

Take the time to find a level, wind-sheltered campsite free of rocks and twigs.

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