Sleeping in the heat

We’re just not used to hot weather in the UK so when we get a sudden heatwave our body struggles to cope with it, especially sleeping. In countries that have more heat than we do they have air conditioning but it would be used so rarely here that the vast majority of us don’t have it. So what can we do to help us sleep in the hot weather?

Here’s a few ideas I’ve gathered together, some you may know of and some you may not have tried as yet.

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  • During the daytime close curtains/blinds to keep out sunlight and keep the windows closed if the temperature outside is much hotter than inside. At night time, if the temperature is less outside than inside, open your windows again. I always do this and it makes a huge difference in temperature when you go to bed.

  • Avoid exercising close to bed time, as it will increase your internal temperature. If you choose to exercise, exercise several hours before bed time to allow your body the opportunity to cool down.

  • Avoid hot, heavy or spicy food/meals, particularly near bedtime.

  • Also avoid caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, and energy drinks) in the late afternoon or evening, as these can keep you awake. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks increase dehydration and should be avoided.

  • Have a cool or lukewarm shower or bath just before going to bed. This cools the body directly and can help reduce the temperature of your skin.

  • Put your bedding in the freezer for a couple of minutes (put it in a plastic bag first though). If you don’t have much room in your fridge or freezer, even just your pillowcase or PJs will help. This won’t keep you cool all night, but it will provide a brief respite from heat and humidity long enough for you to drop off.

  • Cool down a whole room by hanging a damp sheet in front of an open window. The breeze blowing in will bring down the room’s temperature.

  • Wet your face and arms with a flannel or use a water filled spray bottle, then stand in front of a fan. Fill an empty perfume bottle with chilled water and keep it by your bedside, spray on your face, back of your neck, and back of your knees to cool down.

  • Soak your feet in cold water for 10 minutes before going to bed, as heat is lost more quickly through your extremities (feet and head).

  • Apply cool wet cloths, cold water or ice packs (armpits and groin for short periods) to the skin, as these areas are where your blood flows closest to the surface of your skin. This will help cool you down.

  • To chill out super-fast, apply ice packs or cold compresses to pulse points at the wrists, neck, elbows, groin, ankles, and behind the knees. Apply wristbands soaked in cold water, as this will have the similar effect.

  • For an ice pack to take to bed, fill your hot water bottle with water and pop it into the freezer, don’t overfill as it will expand.

  • For a cold compress, fill a sock with dry rice grains, tie it off, and pop it in the freezer for an hour or so. The compress will stay chilly for up to 30 minutes, definitely enough time to nod off.

  • Chose the coolest part of the house to sleep in if it’s not your bedroom.

  • Use lightweight, cotton bedding. If you need to have a sheet over you, try leaving your feet out of the sheet, as body heat will escape via your feet

  • For years I have used a buckwheat pillow, which don’t absorb heat like cotton and down. They initially feel a little strange, but I now wouldn’t be without mine. Or use a high-tech pillow known as a “chillow,” which is engineered to stay cool all night long.

  • If your pet sleeps with you and ‘warms up’ the bed, it may be time to find them a different place to sleep, at least when it’s hot.

  • Switching from a “curled up” sleeping position to a “starfish” sleeping position can help cool your body down, in part because starfishing allows airflow to the armpits and groin (both of which are notoriously warm, sweaty places).

  • Use fans in an adequately ventilated area. Make sure the room you are in has an open door or window so fresh air can flow through the room. Some people say aim the fan towards the window as it will blow hot air out. Make a DIY air conditioner by positioning a shallow pan or bowl (a roasting pan works nicely) full of ice in front of a fan. The breeze will pick up cold water from the ice’s surface as it melts, creating a cooling mist.

  • I have seen one suggestion of opening the attic hatch (if you have one) the difference it makes will depend on how the air flows round your house but might be worth a go.

  • Drink plenty of water during the day to keep your body hydrated and cool while you sleep. Dehydration is a common cause of not being able to get to sleep. Keep a glass/insulated container of cold water by your bed in case you wake up hot and uncomfortable. If you have kidney issues and your doctor normally limits your fluids or you are on fluid tablets, you may need to check how much to drink in hot weather.

    Angie Davidson

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