After a couple of weeks of meh weather, the return of the summer sun has had everyone rejoicing.
And with reports predicting the mercury to soar to record temperatures this week we’re looking forward to a socially-distanced scorcher. Happy days.
If only heatwaves didn’t make it so hard to sleep.
As the sun in the UK only really gets its hat on for a few weeks of the year, most of us haven’t bothered to invest in sophisticated air con systems and research has revealed sleeping with the fan on all night can have negatives impacts on our health.
So instead, we’re forced to spend the night opening windows and kicking off the covers in a bid to salvage some sort of sweaty sleep, which leaves us waking up too grumpy to enjoy the next day’s sun.
“A good night’s sleep is important in order to process information throughout the day, as well as to repair and rebalance the body physically and mentally,” Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s sleep expert.
“Ideally, in order for us to sleep well, there needs to be a fractional temperature difference between our body and our brain – a warm body and a cool head.
“The optimum temperature for good sleep is around 19 degrees, but it is important to remember that this is about how you feel and what you need for you.”
Thankfully, there are some simple tricks you can use to try to get a good night’s sleep in the heat.
1. Freeze your hot water bottle
This will create guaranteed cold spots in your bed to help cool you down.
2. Put your sheets/PJs in the freezer
Place them in an air-tight bag first though. If you don’t have much room in your freezer, even putting your pillowcase in will help.
3. Unplug your tech
Plugged in devices and light bulbs emit heat, pushing up the overall temperature of a room.
4. Take a pre-bed shower
The Sleep Council recommends taking a cool shower or bath before bed to help “lower your core body temperature”. Keep the temperature cool.
5. Don’t open the curtains or windows all day
Instead adopt the Mediterranean practice of keeping curtains closed during the day but windows open to allow cool air in.
6. Create a through-draft
By opening windows and doors in different rooms and wedging doors open.
7. Switch to a summer duvet
Swap your winter duvet for one with a lighter tog-rating and if you’re still kicking it off, strip the bedding back to just a sheet. A 4.5 tog duvet is ideal for hotter weather.
8. Don’t sleep naked
While it may seem tempting to sleep naked, this could actually make you more uncomfortable. Choose lightweight PJs instead. “Loose-fitting, cotton nightwear is naturally breathable and cooling,” explains Suzy Reading, Tempur sleep expert and chartered psychologist. “But avoid man-made products like nylon and polyester.”
9. Sleep with wet hair
After your pre-bed shower, leave your hair damp to keep you cooler for longer.
10. Move downstairs at night (if you live in a multi-storey home)
Heat rises, so on really hot nights, you might want to consider moving downstairs to sleep, if you have a downstairs that is.
11. Sleep alone
It may sound ruthless, but you stand a better chance of keeping cool if you have the bed to yourself. Two bodies mean twice the body heat.
12. Soak your feet in cold water for 10 minutes before bed
Putting your feet in cool water can cool the entire body because of the easy access to circulation in your feet.
13. Use cotton or linen sheets (not polyester, satin or silk)
“Loose-fitting, cotton nightwear is naturally breathable and cooling,” explains Reading. “But avoid man-made products like nylon and polyester.” Cotton is lightweight and absorbs moisture, which helps stop us waking up sweaty.
Read more: What a heatwave does to the body
14. Avoid sun during the day
According to the NHS the hottest times of day are between 11am and 3pm so try to avoid direct sunlight during this period where possible or stick to the shade.
15. Go alcohol-free
As this is dehydrating and has been proven to interfere with deep sleep.
16. Try to avoid using the oven to keep household temperatures down
Instead stick to salad which has a higher water content and will help keep you hydrated.
17. Eat a light dinner that’s easy to digest
“Our bodies use more energy to digest a large, rich or heavy dinner, which means we produce more metabolic heat,” explains Reading. Stick to lean proteins such as chicken and fish which helps keep your body temperature consistent.
18. Freeze bottles of water to keep beside your bed
A cool drink of water in the night will help keep you hydrated and cool you down.
19. Open the hatch to your loft/attic
If you have an attic or loft, open the hatch to it. This will give the hot air in the house somewhere to escape to and will bring down the room temperature in the bedrooms.
20. Chill your socks in the fridge/freezer
You might be tempted to ditch the socks during hot nights, but the Sleep Council recommends cooling them in the fridge instead. “Cooling your feet lowers the overall temperature of your skin and body,” it advises.
21. Sleep on a cooling mattress pad
A cooling mattress topper can help to regulate your bed’s temperature for a better, and less sweaty, night’s sleep.
22. Use aloe vera gel to cool your skin
Slather the gel on your skin for an instant cool-down effect and up the ante by putting it in the fridge. As a bonus, aloe vera is an excellent aid for sunburn, too.
23. Keep a cooling spray beside the bed
If you tend to wake up hot and bothered in the night, Reading suggests cooling a facial mist or hydration spray in the fridge before bedtime to keep it next to your bed for instant relief.
24. Sleep on your side
This sleep position actually exposes a larger portion of your body to the air, letting the heat from your body escape and regulating your body temperature to more comfortable levels.
25. Make your own cold air
Reading suggests putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan to help generate some cold air. “Rather than moving existing warm air around the room, the ice will cool the air circulated by the fan, working to cool your room down,” she explains. But remember not to keep it on all night.
26. Up your H2O
According to Reading, drinking plenty of water in warm weather will help keep you cooler during the day and night. Improve hydration levels further by upping your intake of cucumber, melon, strawberries and salad leaves which all contain lots of water.
27. Breathe yourself cooler
Sitali breathing is a yoga breathing practice and a way to make cool air yourself. “On inhalation only, curl up your tongue like a straw and sip in your breath through your tongue, the air will feel very cool,” suggests Reading. “Then close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose.” This is a soothing and cooling practice to use before bed.
28. Put your feet out of the covers
There’s a reason we put our feet out of the covers when we’re hot, as we lose most heat through our extremities.
29. Get outside during the day
The more light you’re exposed to in the daytime, the more your body will desensitise itself to the effects of light at night, which in turn will help you sleep.
30. Drink something hot
It might sound crazy but according to experts, drinking something hot can actually help you to regulate your body temperature when it’s hot. Research has shown that hot drinks do initially make you hotter, but they then cause your body to sweat more, releasing heat from the skin’s surface and reducing your overall body heat storage. Just beware of the caffeine in tea and coffee.
31. Sleep with a cool flannel on your forehead
Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Ramlakhan, says that the secret behind body temperature at night is keeping your body warm but your head cool, so sleeping with a cold flannel on your head is the perfect way to achieve this balance. She suggests placing a wet flannel in the fridge before you go to bed, and rest this on your forehead as you drift off.
32. Try a menthol rub
“If you wake up in the night, rub a menthol stick on your forehead to help cool down,” suggests Ramlakhan.