How to sleep well at a music festival: 7 proven tips from a sleep editor

How to sleep well at a music festival
A 20-minute afternoon nap will boost your mood and restore your energy levels (Image credit: Getty Images/Caia Image)

Festival season is upon us, signalling the arrival of great music, late nights, and alfresco merrymaking, whatever the weather throws at us. But if more than one late night on the trot can leave you a little weary and battle-worn, you might be wondering how you can sleep well at a music festival. 

Is that even possible, you ask? Yes, with the right gear and mindset, it's possible to get decent shut-eye at a festival. And I should know – I’m a sleep editor who has a penchant for live music and on-site camping. The tips below are hard-won pieces of advice I’ve learned from the frontline of festival going (yes, that's my second war analogy and if you were also at Glastonbury 2007, you’ll understand why). If you’re not hardcore enough here’s how you can watch Glastonbury from anywhere in the world

Why is sleep important? Poor sleep can lead to low moods, poor concentration and even impaired decision-making, which no one wants during a weekend full of their favourite live music. Sleeping well (or, as well as you can) at a festival means you can enjoy the event without crashing and burning on day two, so let’s take a look at my top 7 tips to sleeping well at a music festival.   

Nicola Appleton
Nicola Appleton

Nicola Appleton is the Sleep Editor over at Tom’s Guide, where she specialises in quality news content surrounding sleep and wellbeing. As well as tackling the vast topic of sleep, Nicola joins the raft of expert mattress reviewers at Tom's Guide, helping steer readers towards the very best mattresses on the market. 

How to sleep well at a music festival

(Image credit: Getty Images/PeopleImages)

1. Invest in the right tent 

First things first, think about what you’re going to sleep in. Budget tents that are found in the middle of certain supermarkets might appeal to your pocket, but will likely allow in a stream of sunlight at the crack of dawn. If you don’t fancy waking with the sun, the best festival tent for you and your sleep quality will be one that contains a blackout lining. This will ensure daylight is blocked out until you’re ready to face it. We rate the Decathlon Quechua 2 Seconds XL Tent as the best tent for most festival goers, thanks in part to its sunlight blocking blackout lining. 

Top tip: If you’ve already got a tent and it doesn’t come with a blackout lining, suspending a tarp shield over the top of your tent is the next best thing. A tarp shield will help keep your tent in shade, and keep the worst of the sun’s glare away. 

2. Pick the right spot 

Next, think about where you’re going to put your tent. If sleep is a priority, avoid the tight ring of tents surrounding a gazebo with a flag that says ‘I miss Lemmy’ floating in the breeze above it: This group isn’t here to get their eight hours in. You’ll also want to avoid anywhere communal, like downwind of a leaky portaloo with a door that slams. Instead, pick a level spot at the outer edge of a field where there’s little to no foot traffic. 

Top tip: It’s tempting, especially when you’re carrying all your camping gear on your back, but don’t stop at the first vacant patch of grass you find. Some festivals have quiet fields, so head there if you can. If not, walking as far away as you can from the action will mean you’re less likely to be disturbed at night. 

How to sleep well at a music festival

(Image credit: Getty Images/Jelena Mbugua)

3. Get the temperature right 

Festival season is slap bang in the middle of summer, which can mean stifling heat during the day and shivery temps at night – or mostly rain and mud like this year’s Download). Why does this matter? Sleep experts deem 15-20 degrees the optimal temperature for falling and staying asleep, with anything outside of that being a potential barrier to quality sleep. 

A mid-weight sleeping bag will keep your temperature regulated all night but, again, your tent matters here. Nylon tents are prone to trapping a bit of heat, but a decent festival tent will have plenty of air vents, boosting the overall airflow throughout your sleep space. 

Top tip: Thin, comfortable and easily removable layers are best for sleeping in at a festival, where temperatures can rise and fall throughout the duration of your slumber. 

4. Get your mattress sorted 

While some of us can sleep soundly on nothing more than a flimsy yoga mat and a rolled-up jumper for a pillow, others aren’t so lucky. As a sleep editor, part of my job is guiding people towards the best mattress for their sleep needs. This can be tricky to recreate when camping, but not impossible. Airbeds are great, but for sheer ease of use and superior comfort levels, self-inflating mattresses are better. Simply roll out your mattress, unlock the valve and watch your bed inflate. A self-inflating mattress with a depth of at least 3 inches will be enough to let you forget that you’re sleeping on the floor. 

Top tip: If you have the space, bring a foot pump to ensure your mattress reaches optimum inflation for the best support. Sleeping on your side might be difficult on a mattress with this minimal depth, so try to get comfy on your back instead. 

How to sleep well at a music festival

Foam earplugs are best suited to sleep (Image credit: Getty Images/lisanna881)

5. Don’t forget your earplugs and eye masks

Camping on-site is an integral part of the overall music festival experience. That said, anyone who has ever pitched their tent in a field with thousands of other festival goers will shudder at the knowledge there’s plenty of ambient noise and light throughout the night. Unsurprisingly, this can make nodding off difficult. The best earplugs for concerts offer a reduction in noise, but the best earplugs for sleep are likely the foam or wax throwaway ones that block out all noise. Meanwhile, an eye mask will help block out light from the early morning sun, as well as any glare from any wayward torches in the middle of the night. 

Top tip: Before you head out, put your earplugs and eye mask on your pillow or stash it in a handy pocket near your bed, if your tent has one. That way you won’t be rummaging through your bags looking for them in the middle of the night. 

6. Switch to water three hours before bed

Now we’ve covered your sleep environment, let’s look at what you can do to set yourself up for sleep while still maximising your enjoyment of the festival. We know that consuming alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants can make decent sleep harder to come by. Avoiding them altogether is best, if a tad unrealistic if that’s how you like to enjoy yourself. Instead, switch entirely to water at least three hours before you hit the hay, as well as staying hydrated throughout the day. This will help reduce any alcohol-induced sleep disruption. Because even though alcohol may initially help you fall asleep quickly, dehydration and disrupted sleep cycles will make staying asleep much harder. 

Top tip: Tap water is free at festivals, so ask for a glass with every alcoholic drink you buy to ensure you’re nicely hydrated throughout the day. Eating plenty of carb-rich food, like chips, will also stop the alcohol from hitting your bloodstream too quickly. 

How to sleep well at a music festival

Stay hydrated and switch to water 3 hours before bed (Image credit: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt)

7. Try to stick to your normal sleep routine

A regular sleep routine is a crucial part of your overall sleep hygiene. However, a regular sleep routine can be difficult to emulate at a festival, where a quick once-over with a wet wipe constitutes as a bath. However, there are certain sleep cues you can take with you to help nodding off happen easier. 

If reading is part of your normal sleep routine, bring your Kindle or a book and a headtorch. If a particular sleep meditation is what helps you fall asleep, don’t forget your ear buds. Hell, if scrolling on your phone is usually the last thing you do before falling asleep, do that (as long as you’ve brought a power bank, that is). Making the process of going to sleep as normal as possible will help signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. 

Top tip: Make your tent feel more like your bedroom by bringing a pillowcase or blanket from home. The familiar smell will help set the scene for sleep. 

Final thoughts

There’s plenty you can do to give yourself a fighting chance to get at least some decent shut-eye at a music festival. However, you can do everything right and still find it difficult to nod off – and that’s usually due to circumstances beyond your control. If you can’t sleep, try some meditative breathing techniques or listening to a guided meditation or soothing music. These methods can help you wind down so although you’re not asleep, you’re at least relaxed. 

If by the following day you haven’t slept well and it’s impacting how much you’re enjoying yourself, take yourself back to your tent for a quick 20-minute nap. A festival campsite can be pretty quiet during the day, and 20 minutes is all you need to boost your mood and restore your energy levels. 

Nicola Appleton

Nicola Appleton is the Sleep Editor at Tom’s Guide, where she specialises in quality news content surrounding sleep and wellbeing. As well as tackling the vast topic of sleep, Nicola joins the raft of expert mattress reviewers at Tom's Guide, helping to steer readers towards the very best mattresses on the market.