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When temperatures soar, getting to sleep can be a nightmare – but a few expert changes might help you cool down and drop off
Summer nights often mean suffering from hours spent tossing and turning, as we find it too unbearably hot to sleep. And this can affect all of us, whether you’re already a hot or cold sleeper, or you suffer from allergies that may be exacerbated by the heat. But don’t despair – we asked Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council to share her top tips on keeping cool and comfortable. ‘Ideally bedrooms should be around 16-18°C,’ says Lisa. ‘But if at night-time the outside temperature remains higher, or your bedroom has retained the heat from the day, then it can be difficult to stay cool, making it hard to sleep.’
‘Rethink your duvets and blankets,’ says Lisa. Summer bed linen in natural materials will help your body to stay cool – think cotton or linen, or try temperature balancing bedding, which is designed to help regulate your temperature. Your summer duvet should be a low tog rating (2-5-4.5 tog) – and again look for breathable options. On very hot nights, ditch the duvet and lie under a flat sheet instead.
If you’re still suffering, Lisa recommends a chilled pillowcase: ‘Just put it in a plastic bag and pop in the fridge before bedtime. You can also do the same with socks, which will help to lower your core body temperature.‘
A change in what you wear to bed might help too. ‘Try light cotton nightwear,’ advises Lisa. ‘It’s actually better than wearing nothing at all, as the natural fabric will absorb perspiration. If you have long hair, tie it back. Hair around your neck can make you feel warmer, like a scarf does.’
Snuggling up to another hot person should be the last thing on your mind during a heatwave. ‘If you share a bed, then make sure it’s big enough for two people, so you can sleep without disturbing each other,’ says Lisa. ‘Ideally, it should be a minimum of 5ft wide.'
If the sun streams through your window in the afternoon and evening, close your curtains and blinds before leaving the house for work. ‘Open windows – and doors – to create a draught’ says Lisa. ‘If this isn’t an option due to noise, hayfever or safety, then try to keep windows open in the day to aerate the room. If you’ve got an attic, try opening the hatch. Hot air rises and this will give it somewhere to go.’
Invest in a fan to help move the air around your body – the latest versions offer remote control, increased airflow speeds and sleep timers for ease of use throughout the night. ‘A fan is the remedy for 20% of people during hot summers,’ says Lisa. ‘If it’s really hot, put a tray of ice and a little water in front of the fan, which will cool the air even more.’
School might be out, which often means a more leisurely attitude towards bedtime, but it helps to stick to your usual time when you can. ‘And try to aim for a gradual transition back to those early-morning starts before school,’ advises Lisa. If it's still light outside, try using an eye mask to let your brain know you are ready for sleep or a journal to help you relax.
Summer can also mean later evening meals and more alcohol, but try to avoid drinking for three to four hours before bed, and try not to go to bed on a full stomach. ‘Alcohol can make you feel hot in the middle of the night through dehydration,’ says Lisa, who advises having your last cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon too.
Drink regularly throughout the day, but avoid too much just before bed as getting up for the loo in the middle of the night will disturb your sleep. Take a water bottle with you to bed should you wake up needing a drink, choosing one that will keep water cool. ‘Your body will feel cooler if you are hydrated,’ says Lisa.
‘Have a cool shower or bath before bedtime to lower your body temperature,’ Lisa continues. ‘Your body temperature needs to drop slightly before you go to sleep, which is why you can’t sleep when you’re too hot.’ Spritzing your face with water will help cool you down, while Lisa also suggests filling a hot water bottle with cold water and putting it in your bed.