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Are the humid nights keeping you awake? Our resident Sleep Expert, Christabel Majendie, has some handy tips to help.
Finally we have some good weather after a cold and wet start to the summer! This is great during the day but what about sleeping during those hot nights? The British are just not used to this and very few houses in this country have air conditioning. So here are some ideas to help you get a better night’s sleep in the heat.
Regulate your body temperature
Your body temperature normally drops before you go to sleep and this is a signal for your brain that it is time to nod off. This process is disrupted if the outside temperature is high. So try some of these strategies:
- Take a cool bath or shower before bed (tepid but not cold as this may be counterproductive).
- Wear light nightwear made from natural fibres such as cotton and avoid synthetic materials.
- Tie back long hair before going to bed to avoid your neck getting hot.
- Put a hot water bottle filled with icy water in your bed.
- Cool socks in the freezer then put them on to lower your temperature but take them off before your feet heat up again.
- Keep a spray bottle by your bed to mist your face and neck in the night if you wake up hot, or keep a damp cloth or flannel by your bed.
- If you share a bed, make sure there is enough room to sleep without touching each other to avoid extra sweating.
- Keep hydrated during the day with plenty of water and keep a glass by your bed at night.
Manage the room temperature
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 16-18 degrees. Anything much higher than this will make it harder for you to drop off to sleep and to stay asleep, giving you restless nights. So take steps to decrease the room temperature. It’s best to keep windows closed and curtains drawn during the day to keep the room cool but an hour before bed, open windows and doors in the house to create a draught. Be sure to sleep with the bedroom door open if possible and if you have a loft room or attic with windows, open them at night to allow the hot air to rise out of the house. You can increase airflow further with a fan. Try putting a tray of ice and water in front of it to cool the air. Or try putting large bottles of frozen water in the bedroom to cool the air as it melts.
Since heat rises, the bottom of the house will be coolest or you may find that some rooms in the house are cooler than others, depending on the position in relation to the sun. So you could consider relocating to another room to sleep until the heat wave passes. Or if there is room, try putting your mattress lower down on the floor where it will be a little cooler.
Put your pillow cases and bed sheets or other bedding (if room!) in the fridge or freezer before bed. If you wake up hot in the night, try turning the pillow over to the cooler side which hasn’t absorbed your body heat.
Replace your duvet with a cotton sheet or just the duvet cover. Synthetic materials will not absorb as much moisture leaving you feeling sweaty, so ensure all bedding is made from natural materials. The Naturalmat Company provides a range of bedding made from organic cotton including sheets, pillow cases, duvet covers and mattress protectors, together with duvets and pillows filled with natural materials such as organic wool and goose down.
Don’t forget the children!
The same rules apply: ensure all bedding and bedclothes are made from natural fibres and switch to lighter versions. Avoid waterproof mattress protectors as these may cause children to sweat.
If you put a fan in the bedroom, don’t point it directly, at the children. And a lukewarm bath before bed may help them settle into sleep.
For babies, you can check the room temperature with a digital thermometer and adjust bedding accordingly. As a general guide, your baby needs one more layer than what you are sleeping in; if you are sleeping in light clothing and just a sheet, put your baby in the same plus a light, breathable, cotton blanket. In temperatures of 23 degrees and above, babies may just need light clothing and a sheet.
This is the most important tip of all! When it’s hot and you can’t get to sleep or you wake up hot in the night and you can’t get back to sleep, you start to think about things. And with no other distractions you often focus on worries such as work, tasks you need to do or things that aren’t right in your life. Or you might worry that you won’t be able to cope the next day if you haven’t slept or even that this is the start of insomnia and you’ll never sleep again.
If you have worries going round and round in your head about things you have to do, get up and write them down. Then if your mind returns to them, remind yourself that you have written them down and will deal with them tomorrow.
If you are getting wound up by your thoughts, get out of bed and go to another room to do something relaxing or comforting until you calm down and feel sleepy. Reading or listening to music are good options; computers and phones are to be avoided.
Many of the worries we think about when we can’t sleep are exaggerated thoughts so notice if you are doing this and correct yourself: you will get some sleep even if a bit disrupted; you have coped in the past after a disturbed night even if it felt a struggle; and the high temperature will drop in a few days and your sleep will return to normal. And you’ll be wishing the heat wave would come back even if sleep is compromised!