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How To Stay Cool While Sleeping In Your Car

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It’s important to know how to stay cool while sleeping in your car so that you get a good night’s rest. In warm weather conditions, the interior of a car can become hot and unpleasant which can really stop you from falling asleep.

You need to consider where to park, what gear to take, and how to keep the air circulating. During hot summer evenings, it can be really difficult to fall asleep. Use these tips to keep both yourself and the car cool!

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Crack The Windows Open

To put things simply, you need to let the hot air escape your car while you are sleeping. The human body generates a lot of heat, so the temperature inside the car can easily rise above that of the outside.

Cracking open windows can alert people to the fact that someone is inside the car. Opening the sunroof is an inconspicuous alternative. You could also consider opening multiple windows a small amount so as not to draw too much attention.

Allowing air to circulate within the vehicle is crucial if you want to stay cool while sleeping in the car.

Park Smart

Firstly I would suggest trying to park somewhere that is more likely to get a breeze. It’s also absolutely crucial to try and park in a shaded area. Although it doesn’t make a difference at night, sunrise will be a different story.

If you are parked outside of a shaded area your car will heat up once the sun begins to rise, leading to hot conditions while you are sleeping.

If you want to know what stores allow overnight parking in their parking lots, check out our handy guide!

Use The AC Before Bed

Do not leave the AC on overnight as this can have dangerous implications due to the potential for carbon monoxide levels to rise in the vehicle. Instead, if your car has AC, you can blast it to cool the car down before bed right before you switch everything off.

Make sure you crack open a couple of windows to let some air in but don’t open them too much after you’ve used the ac. This is because the air inside the car will now be cooler than outside. Having the right temperature is so important to get a proper night’s rest. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to stay cool while sleeping in your car.

Put A Giant Fan Near The Window

Obviously, a decent fan is one of the best ways to stay cool when sleeping in the car. It can be tempting to put the fan really close by but the best place to locate it is next to the window.

A fan near a window that is slightly open will pull in cool air from the outside and circulate it through the vehicle. If you have windows cracked open on both sides this can allow hot air to escape and cooler air to enter.

This heavy-duty car air fan is a good choice to keep you cool.

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XOOL Electric Car Fans for Rear Seat Passenger Portable Fan Headrest 360 Degree Rotatable Backseat Car Fan 12V Cooling Air Fan with Stepless Speed Regulation for SUV, RV, Vehicles
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  • ❄【AIR CIRCULATION】 XOOL car fan is perfect…

If you aren’t able to plug one in you could also get a decent battery-powered one and use that instead. This is a battery-powered car fan that can be clipped onto the back of the driver’s seat to keep you cool while sleeping in the car.

xasla 10000mAh Portable Rechargeable Clip on Fan, 8 inch Battery Operated Fan, 24 Hours Work Time, 4 Speeds Personal Fan, Ideal for Outdoor Camping Golf Cart Home Office Blue
  • Multi- Function Fan: The portable fan and the clip…
  • Quick Recharge yet Long Lasting Battery: This…
  • Robust Airflow with Low Operational Noises: The…

Take A Cold Shower Before Bed

If you are out and about in warm weather conditions, you might feel a little hot and sweaty at the end of the day. Having a cool shower before bed can make it easier to fall asleep in warm conditions.

We’ve got a great article outlining some places to shower on the road, so why not check it out? Even if you don’t need a shower now, you might want one in the morning after spending the night in a hot car!

Eat A Light Dinner

Eating a large amount of food before bed can lead to your body generating more heat due to the digestive system working hard. Try eating something light so that you are nice and comfortable when you finally rest your head and try to fall asleep.

Insulate Your Car

Cars that are insulated will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. If you are planning to sleep in your car often you can use some insulative material from Amazon to make window covers. Cut the material out into the same shape as your windows then attach them to your windows using suction cups.

For a quick and easy solution, you can place a car windshield sunshade at the front which doubles up as an insulator. The important thing about this is that it will stop your car from heating up in the morning when the sun rises.

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EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade | Reflector Sunshade Offers Ultimate Protection for Car Interior | Cool Reflective Sun Blocker Fits Small Sedans, Mini SUVs, & Hatchbacks | Medium (64×32 inches)
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It’s also worth putting sunshades on the other windows. Staying cool when sleeping in the car isn’t just about the warm evening air, it’s about the warming effects of the sun in the morning. These side window sunshades are perfect to complete the insulation of your car.

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Enovoe Car Window Shades for Baby (21″x14″) – 4 Pack – Sun Shade Blocker, Cling Window Cover – Glare Shield and UV Rays Protection for Your Child – Side Window Screens for SUV- Mesh Car Window Shade
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  • Universal Fit : These 21” x 14” sun shade for…
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Crack Open The Sunroof

Heat rises, so if you have a sunroof this can be a great way to let warm air escape during the night. It’s also less obvious to other people walking by, which is an added benefit.

It’s also nice to keep the air moving for safety reasons, to make sure that you always have enough fresh air to breathe properly. We have some other useful tips in our article on staying safe while sleeping in a car.

Use A Car Tent To Block The Sunshine

A car tent is designed to block the sunshine from heating up your vehicle during a hot summer day. It is essentially a product that covers your car and blocks the sun. This will stop your car from heating up during the day and also in the morning when the sun rises.

This car tent from Senllen could be perfect if you are car camping all summer.

Senllen Car Tent Fully Automatic 189 inch Large Size Hot Summer Anti-UV Wireless Control Vehicle Umbrella with Removable Charger, Windproof Carport Canopy Sun Shade for SUV, Minivan, Truck
  • 〖Remote/Automatic/Folding〗- New and patented…
  • 〖Protect your car in hot summer〗-PU silver…
  • 〖High quality for maximum security〗-Designed…

Have A Cool Drink Nearby

Grab some ice-cold water before you lay down for the night. If you are feeling too hot you can cool down with a few sips of cold water. You can also place it on your head if you are feeling hot.

Freezing water bottles can also be used as ice packs if you are feeling creative! Often times it’s just getting to sleep that is the problem, so anything you can do to make that happen is worth it!

Get yourself an insulated water bottle such as this one from Amazon to keep your water cool for up to 24 hours!

SENDESTAR 64 oz Beer Growler Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Leak Proof Stainless Steel Water Bottle —Wide Mouth with Flat Cap & Spout Lid Includes Water Bottle Pouch (Black)
  • The water bottle is double-walled and made from…
  • Wide mouth makes it easy to clean, BPA-free lid…
  • This Growler Won’t Leak. lid with handle for easy…

Put A Cold Cloth On Your Head

Put some cold water onto a cloth and use it to keep your head cool while you are relaxing before bed. This may help you fall asleep for the night! If you don’t have a cloth you could always use an item of clothing that was waiting to be washed anyway.

I like these cooler clothes which are water activated.

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Sukeen Cooling Towel (40″x12″), Ice Towel Sets,Soft Breathable Chilly Towel,Microfiber Towel for Yoga,Sport,Running,Gym,Workout,Camping,Fitness,Workout & More Activities
  • INSTANT COOLING, REUSABLE – Hyper-evaporative…
  • KEEP CHILLS – The towel stays chilled for up to 3…
  • MULTIPURPOSE SPORTS TOWEL – It’s perfect for…

If you need to keep water cold then grab a decent budget cooler bag from Amazon to have in the car with you.

Lifewit Large Cooler Bag 27/32/48 Cans Insulated Lunch Bag Lightweight Portable Cool Bag Double Layer for Picnic, Beach, Work, Trip
  • Large Capacity: The cooler bag can hold up to 23…
  • Thermal Insulated: The exterior of the cooler bag…
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A cold beverage can really boost morale if you are struggling with the hot summer conditions while living in your car.

You could even throw in some of these Reusable Ice Packs to help you stay cool!

Medvice 2 Reusable Hot and Cold Ice Packs for Injuries, Joint Pain, Muscle Soreness and Body Inflammation – Reusable Gel Wraps – Adjustable & Flexible for Knees, Back, Shoulders, Arms and Legs
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Think Carefully About Bedding

Try to find bedding that is thin and breathable. Ideally, you want something that you can wash easily and that you won’t sweat too much when lying on. Try to avoid bedding that is highly insulative and thick.

Avoid lying directly on your car seats in hot climates. If you sweat it might make your car seats smell bad, which is the last thing you want on a road trip!

Skip The Sleeping Bag

If you are sleeping in your car during the summer you could even skip the sleeping bag entirely and just use a light quilt or sheet as a bed cover. Sometimes it’s nice to at least have something so perhaps use a bedsheet instead of your usual sleeping bag.

Check out these lightweight breathable bed sheets, which could be perfect.

Don’t Forget About Safety

When it’s a hot summer evening it will be tempting to leave your air conditioning running or open the windows fully. You should always put your safety first and not do anything that puts you at risk. It’s not worth it just to be a little cooler while sleeping!

Don’t open the windows to a point where someone could gain access to your vehicle. Open windows late at night may draw unwanted attention which is the last thing you need when you are trying to relax inside.

We’ve written a helpful article on how to find places you can legally sleep in your car.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.

Image of Iain The Founder Of The Road Trip Expert

Iain Salter

Founder & Editor of The Road Trip Expert

Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He first developed a passion for backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries.

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