To Sleep, Perchance to Dream – Part 3, by J.M.

(Continued from Part 2.  This concludes the article)

Cold Weather Considerations

Colder weather introduces its own unique problems to mobile sleep planning. Besides being really uncomfortable and preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, it’s possible to get hypothermia in wet or windy conditions in temperatures as high as 60°F, which can result in death. The most obvious solution is to start a fire to keep you warm, but you’ll want to make sure you structure the fire to burn as long as possible so you can get a good night’s sleep. Some options for long-burning fires are:

  • A regular fire with some really thick logs added to it
  • An upside-down fire, where you have thick logs on the bottom and stack smaller stuff as you move up the pile. You start the fire on the top, and it slowly burns down through the thicker material.
  • Two thick logs stacked on top of each other with a smoldering fire burning between them.
  • A log torch, which is a thick section of log that’s been split, hollowed-out, then reassembled and lit on the inside.
  • A self-feeding fire with ramps on both sides that hold additional logs that roll down as the lower logs burn.

Burning a fire to stay warm while you’re sleeping can be dangerous, so make sure you do some research and practice how to do it safely before you actually need it to survive.

The SOL Escape Bivvy I mentioned earlier is also a good option for colder weather and, in my experience, adds 10°F-20°F of warmth. You can combine that with a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket for a decent cold-weather sleep solution. My personal current mobile colder-weather sleep system is the combination of a 2Go Systems v3 B.O.B. Zip Poncho combined with a Helikon Tex Swagman – you can wear them together as layered ponchos to keep you warm and dry when you’re moving, and zip them up and nest them together for a nice warm sleeping system. I recommend avoiding the use of mylar emergency blankets for sleeping if possible, as they don’t breath and you’ll most likely end up soaked from sweating, which can be deadly in colder weather. However, if that’s all you have available you should ensure there are one or more gaps to allow some air to circulate.

Warm Weather Considerations

Warm weather can also present some problems for sleeping, since being too hot is a common cause of sleeplessness. Hammocks are nice for allowing air circulation around your body, and you can suspend a mylar blanket above you to reflect sunlight away if there’s no shade available. Digging a trench a foot or two down below the ground will typically expose cooler soil underneath which you can lay in to help you sleep.

Besides the temperature, warmer weather can also introduce irritating and potentially deadly critters into your efforts to sleep, especially in tropical and desert environments. Mosquitos, black flies, horse flies, ants, snakes and scorpions are just some of the fauna that can impact your ability to sleep, and possibly even severely injure you while sleeping. If you’re sleeping in a hammock there are bug nets available that are designed to hang around a hammock – I carry the Hummingbird Warbler when I’m hammock camping, which only weighs 5.5oz. If you’re sleeping on the ground you should consider a bug net like the Sea-to-Summit Nano Mosquito Pyramid Net Shelter (which requires a branch or pole to suspend), or the Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy (which also requires some type of suspension).

Many of the bug net bivys available include a waterproof floor pan, so they’ll help keep you dry as well as protect you from bugs. If you’re primarily worried about things that crawl on the ground you can build a sleeping platform to keep you up off the ground while sleeping. If you’ll be inside a sleeping bag of some sort and are only worried about flying bugs in your face while you sleep, you can wear a head bug net – I’ve done this and used a thin flexible branch stuck in the ground and attached to the head net to keep it off of my face.

Additional Kit

In addition to sleeping platforms and bedding, there are several other pieces of kit that you should consider stocking up on to help with a good night’s sleep:

  • Ear plugs – Noise is one of the most common factors that prevent or interrupt sleep, and the disposable ones are pretty inexpensive.
  • Sleep masks – Light can also impact sleep, so having soft masks that cover the eyes to block light can help people sleep better and longer.
  • Snoring Aids – Blocked nasal passages are a common cause of snoring and sleep disruption, and products like nasal strips, nasal dilators, nose vents, chin straps, and many other are available to help address it.
  • CPAP Aids – If you or someone in your group has to use a CPAP device and the electricity goes away, there are some non-powered potential alternatives available that may mitigate the problem.
  • Chemical Sleep aids – There are a lot of over-the-counter sleep aids available, including Doxylamine Succinate, Diphenhydramine HCl and Melatonin. I can’t speak to how well they retain their effectiveness with long-term storage, but they should be good for a long time if you seal them with oxygen absorbers and store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Natural Sleep Aids – There are a number of natural sleep aids that people swear by, including Lavender and Chamomile tea. You can add one or more of these to your garden so you’ll have them when you need them.

Even if no one in your group has any sleeping issues right now, including some of these types of kit in your preps will help you address problems that are likely to arise after conditions change dramatically due to a disaster.

Other Activities

There are a number of other activities that you should consider and plan for that are related to sleeping in a post-disaster scenario. The first one is how do you ensure everyone’s safety while sleeping? Some of the types of safety-related issues you’ll need to consider and plan for are:

  • Fire – Burning wood to stay warm post-disaster significantly increases the chance of a fire or carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Intruders – The odds of malicious intruders entering your home at night while you’re sleeping will probably increase when society starts to break down.
  • Natural Disasters – Wildfires, floods, tornadoes and other deadly natural disasters can occur any time, and many of the current early-warning systems we rely on may not be available.

There are two types of options for monitoring safety – biological and technical. By biological I mean people or animals – you can set up a security/fire-watch schedule and have people stay awake in shifts, or have an animal like a dog that can warn you of fires, intruders or other issues. Expecting people to stay awake for long periods during the night when they’re tired may be tough, so how you schedule the shifts will obviously depend on how many responsible people you have available. Technical monitoring involves using electronic or mechanical devices to perform the monitoring for you; this can be battery-powered fire/smoke detectors, loud personal alarms or even a metal can with rocks inside attached to a tripwire, etc. The goal is to make sure you have sufficient time to take appropriate action if something happens during the night.

Sleep hygiene will also be important to getting a good night’s sleep. You need to include any bed linens, sleeping bags, hammocks, etc. in your clothes washing plans and make sure they’re cleaned frequently, especially in warmer weather. Pay close attention to the washing instructions for things like sleeping bags, since they usually require special approaches to washing, so you may have to get creative. In a post-disaster world you’re also probably more likely to have someone in your group pick up an infestation of pests like bedbugs, lice, fleas, etc., which can quickly end up spreading around your entire sleeping environment. You should include a generous supply of Diatomaceous Earth in your preps to handle various possible bug infestations, and it never expires.

Given that stress is one of the leading causes of sleeplessness, and a post-disaster environment is pretty much the definition of stress, having a plan to reassure and calm yourself as well as your group is going to be critical, especially during the early period following a disaster. Since you most likely won’t be watching television, engaging in social media, or playing video games in the evenings, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to have a discussion on the situation, discuss plans, and generally try to reassure everyone that things will be all right. You can also engage in other stress-reducing activities such as prayer, meditation, playing board games, reading books, etc. – whatever works best for you and your group. The goal is to help everyone minimize their stress levels in order to get a better night’s sleep.


Sleep is the activity we spend more time doing than anything else, and consistently getting a good night’s sleep can be critical to your survival in a post-disaster world, both short-term as well as long-term. Incorporating plans and kit in your preps that are focused on supporting good sleep for everyone in your family or group will go a long way towards maintaining a safe, healthy and productive life for everyone, which is really the ultimate goal of preparedness. I highly recommend you invest some time to analyze, plan and equip your group to handle the most likely sleep scenarios you’re likely to encounter in a post-disaster world.