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Get a good night’s sleep, no matter how high the proverbial mercury rises.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this scenario: It’s late, you’re tossing and turning in bed, and no matter what, you simply can’t fall asleep.
The problem? It’s far too hot.
Humans have an ideal temperature for sleep, but when the weather isn’t cooperating and you can’t leave the AC running all night, what do you do?
When you’re sleep deprived, cognitive performance drops, memory suffers, and you can struggle to stay focused. Eventually, even long-term memory can be affected.
This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep.
The ideal temperature for sleep is about 65°F (18.3°C), give or take a few degrees.
Our body temperature naturally drops a little during sleep, and a cool — but not cold — sleeping environment is ideal to have a good night’s sleep.
When it’s too hot, you’re more likely to toss and turn, which disrupts your sleep.
“Before you go to sleep naturally, your body produces a hormone called melatonin which causes a drop in core body temperature that is needed for sleep,” says sleep therapist Christabel Majendie.
Majendie earned her MSc in health psychology, graduate diploma in sleep medicine, and serves as the resident sleep expert at Naturalmat.
“If the ambient temperature is too high, this process is interrupted, so it may take longer to get to sleep. It’s also harder to get into a deep sleep, so you may find it harder to stay asleep,” says Majendie.
Melatonin is important because it regulates our natural sleep cycle and tells our body when it’s time to fall asleep. Our body starts to produce melatonin when light levels drop, and stops producing it as it gets lighter, telling us that it’s time to wake up.
This is why people sleep more during winter, as the nights are longer and cooler — meaning it’s easier for your body to reach a comfortable sleeping temperature.
I asked Majendie for some tips to improve sleep the next time a heat wave hits.
Luckily, there are a few simple tweaks that can help you get a good night’s sleep no matter how high the proverbial mercury rises.
Keep hot air out
“Keep hot air out of the bedroom in the day by closing windows, blinds, and curtains as the temperature rises,” says Majendie.
Aim for between
If you can get your bedroom to a cool temperature before you head to bed, you’ll help ensure a restful night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Invite the breeze in
“In the evening when the air outside is cooler, open blinds and windows to let fresh air into the room before going to bed,” says Majendie.
“If it is safe and quiet, you can keep the window open while sleeping. If not, sleep with the door open and open any windows in the house that are safe, to allow a flow of air,” she adds.
The Japanese futon is a bed that traditionally goes directly on the floor. It turns out that there may be a good reason to be so close to the ground while you sleep.
“Sleeping low to the ground is cooler, so try putting your mattress on the floor,” Majendie says.
These days there are a lot of options, from low to the ground wooden frames to the classic futon.
Let it blow
The obvious solution when it’s hot is to crank up the AC to maximum, but that has an impact on the electricity bill and the environment.
A fan is a good option if you don’t have AC, and it may be more efficient if you’re only keeping one room cool.
According to Majendie, “You can use a fan if it doesn’t disturb your sleep, but don’t position it over your face and make sure it is dust-free.”
There are plenty of options to choose from, so find what’s best for you.
Go au naturel
“Reduce the amount of bed clothes and bedding you normally use and ensure these are made from natural fibers, as these regulate your body temperature better than synthetic materials,” says Majendie.
It’s also a good idea to change up your comforter when the temperature rises and opt for a lightweight blanket instead.
Shop for natural fiber sheets online.
In addition to light and airy fabrics, sleeping in the nude is an easy, cost-free way to cool down.
The main thing to remember though, according to Majendie, is to not worry too much about a bad night’s sleep, as humans “will still function okay even if our sleep is not the best it can be for a few nights.”
Sleeping in the heat has its challenges, but there are definitely some tips and tricks you can use to make it a little easier.
Having a healthy sleep routine already in place will minimize the struggle to fall asleep.
Avoiding caffeine late in the day and avoiding screens that emit blue light in the hours before bedtime can both help your brain to slow down and get ready for sleep.
Though it’s easier said than done, try not to lie awake worrying about the fact that you’re not sleeping. Instead, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy, then try to go to sleep again.
While hot nights may be keeping you up, these simple tips can make your sleep a breeze — literally.
Bethany Fulton is a freelance writer and editor based in Manchester, United Kingdom.