Warm weather is a chance to get outside to sleep in nature, or simply throw open your windows to let in the breezes.
But mosquitoes and other bugs can have a way of, well, bugging you at night, especially during the summer. The incessant itch of a bug bite or an unrelenting buzzing near your face can also keep you awake, no matter where you lay your head.
“As a regular camper,” says Liam Davies of Fishing Command, “I have learned that being with nature comes with its drawbacks. But don’t let some pesky insects ruin your trip.”
Check out some solutions that can help you tell bugs to bugger off, so you can sleep with more peace and comfort.
Tips for avoiding bug bites
Whether you’re enjoying a good night’s sleep in the wilderness or simply trying to drift off in your own bed, persistent bug bites can set the tone for the night. If you’re sleeping outdoors, dodging mosquitoes often comes down to how and where you set up camp. “You should choose a campsite with a good breeze,” Davies says, “as this will naturally help you blow bugs away.”
Davies also recommends avoiding moist and shady areas or spots near tall grass. “Mosquitoes never travel too far from standing water, which is their breeding space,” he adds. An open sunny campsite is your best bet. Then once you get settled, keep that tent zipped up. Don’t underestimate how quickly one mosquito or 10 can sneak into your tent.
“In the evening, when mosquitoes are at their worst,” says Paul Johnson, founder of The Tick and Mosquito Project, “safely burning a campfire can be a huge deterrent for mosquitoes, as long as your lungs can put up with the smoke.” Be sure you’re in an area where fires are permitted, and follow fire safety rules, such as putting flames out when unattended.
At home, you can prevent mosquitoes from going where they aren’t wanted by keeping doors and windows closed. Another simple way to keep your house bug free is to make sure your screens are in good shape, with no holes or tears.
The best ways to keep bugs at bay
“A mosquito net is a good idea if you think you will be sleeping in a thick mosquito area, or camping during peak mosquito season,” Johnson adds. “They are safe to use and are incredibly effective against mosquitoes while you sleep.” You can get a bug net for your tent or for your hammock if that’s how you hang.
But you can also add a mosquito net to your bed at home if you live in a particularly buggy region — or pack one when traveling. Be sure to tuck the ends under your mattress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends choosing a net with 156 holes per square inch to help keep bugs out while you sleep.
In the daytime, prevention tactics become about avoiding bites. “When you are out in nature, you are in the mosquitoes’ element,” says Johnson. “In order to keep yourself from getting bites, or worse — a mosquito-borne illness — be generous with the bug repellent.”
In keeping with the CDC, Johnson recommends spraying clothing with permethrin before your outdoors adventure. Permethrin will remain on clothing through several washes and help prevent bites from mosquitoes and ticks, both of which can carry disease in addition to causing annoying, sleep-interrupting itching. You can also buy pre-treated clothing. Permethrin should not be sprayed on skin, however.
For skin, Johnson and the CDC recommend using a product that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that contains an active ingredient such as DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s important to remember with all insect repellents that they should not be used on young children. Always read the directions or consult a health care professional before using insect repellent products on or around children.
If you’re just spending a short time outdoors around your home, and the bugs aren’t too bad, you might want to wear long sleeves, pants, and socks. “One of the things that not a lot of people consider when it comes to avoiding mosquitoes is the color of clothes you wear,” adds Mark Evans, a summer camp outdoors guide. “Lighter colors tend to attract fewer mosquitoes.” The closer clothing is to your skin, the better chance for the bloodsuckers to bite, so choose thicker, loose-fitting materials, as well.
Bugs can be an annoying part about spending time in the outdoors. They can also keep you from nodding off if their creep-crawly nature bothers you. One thing that can help is to remember that insects are a necessary part of the ecosystem you’ve come to enjoy. If you’re weirded out after seeing one in your home, tune in to a calming app so you can tune out that buzz.
If you have bites that you want to treat before bed, calamine lotion, ice, aloe vera, or. A simple paste of baking soda and water can help ease the itch.
Which bugs are most annoying while you sleep
While mosquitoes may be the most persistent pest, they aren’t the only bugs that can ruin a good night’s sleep. Here are insects to look out for and some tips on avoiding them overnight.
Not only do mosquitoes bite, causing itchy, red welts, they also persistently buzz around ears at night. To minimize them, sleep far from ponds or stagnant water. It’s not advisable to wear DEET-based sprays while you sleep, but essential oils like lavender, geranium, and citronella have deterring properties.
Ticks are found in shady, damp areas such as grassy or wooded areas. While there are many different types of ticks, only a few species can bite and transmit disease to humans. Follow the same tactics for ticks as you would for mosquitoes and perform regular tick checks during and after your time outdoors. To avoid picking up these hitchhikers, check yourself and any animals that go outdoors.
Also known as redbugs, these microscopic mites hide out in moist grassy areas and pack a terrible itch hours after a bite. Certain lotions with benzocaine can bot repels chiggers and ease the itch.
These sizable beasts smell the carbon dioxide in your breath and sweat, and love movement. A deer fly bite can leave an itchy welt. Avoid them by keeping screens on open bedroom windows, and patching holes. DEET spray will help you avoid these bugs and their bites, but add a hat while hiking, and stick on a deer fly patch.
Also called no-see-ums, these sand fleas are the smallest of gnats, but DEET will deter them. If you live in an area prone to these biters, smaller mesh screens and mosquito nets may be necessary. To avoid no-see-ums all together, try to stay away from going outside at dusk and dawn.