Warm weather keeping you up? We share 24 easy, expert-approved hacks on how to sleep in the heat.
Longer days, sunny skies and family days out – the British summertime is a period we all look forward to each year. And whilst the season may be our favourite, the temperatures can often cause havoc to our sleeping patterns – with the extra heat leaving us restless, overheated and unable to fall asleep.
As sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan explains: “If you’re too hot this can stop you getting to sleep and staying asleep. The brain needs to be a fraction of a degree cooler than the rest of the body to achieve optimal sleep. When the brain is too hot this can affect both deep sleep and REM which results in more tossing and turning throughout the night, causing restlessness and broken sleeping patterns. Cooling the body will alleviate this and increase the body’s chance of getting the deep, nourishing sleep it needs.”
With this in mind, we asked the experts and gathered the necessary research on how to beat the heat when trying to sleep. So if you’re suffering with slumber during the summer months, feel over tired and are struggling to wake up the next morning, we recommend getting to grips with a few of these tips.
How to sleep in the heat:
Here are 24 ideas to help you get a cool night’s slumber on a hot and sticky summer night…
1. Keep your hands and feet out of the duvet
Dangling our feet out from under the covers is many people’s go-to when it comes to cooling down on a hot night.
And Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK, Neil Robinson, suggests we’ve got the right idea. He reveals that while there’s a common belief that we lose heat from our heads our ‘hands and feet are [actually] key to keeping cool’ at night. So say goodbye to socks and be sure to let these limbs dangle out the duvet.
2. Get naked
Turns out sleeping in the buff gives you an all-round better night’s sleep in the heat according to experts at the Sleep Council.
Opting out of pyjamas will cool down your body’s temperature, which will not only help you get a better sleep on a hot night, but will regulate your skin’s temperature to stop you waking up throughout the night.
It’s also said that snoozing without clothes on is more comfortable and will stop you getting irritated when it’s balmy. What’s more, a study into cooler body temperature can increase your metabolism and help you burn calories while you sleep, as well as stop you getting a yeast infection by limiting the warm, moist areas for bacteria to grow.
3. Sleep on your side
If you usually sleep on your back or front, you should try sleeping on your side when it’s too hot to sleep.
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 a much more comfortable level.
4. Cool down with a flannel
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep, says that the secret behind body temperature at night is keeping your body warm but your head cool.
Sleeping with a cold flannel on your head is the perfect way to achieve this balance, she says: “Place a wet flannel in the fridge for an hour or so before getting into bed and lay it on your forehead to help you drift off to sleep.”
5. Drink something hot
We know it seems a bit backwards, but according to experts, drinking a cup of tea or similar can actually help you to regulate your body temperature when it’s muggy.
A 2012 study by the University of Ottawa showed that a hot drink helps release sweat, which in turn cools your cool temperature.
Dr Ollie Jay, one of the researchers of the study told the Smithsonian Mag: “If you drink a hot drink, it does result in a lower amount of heat stored inside your body, provided the additional sweat that’s produced when you drink the hot drink can evaporate.”
So the next time you’re tossing and turning, try brewing a decaff cuppa.
6. Use a hot water bottle
Who knew that our best friend in winter could also come in handy during summer?
If you’re feeling the heat and can’t sleep, this tip backed by the Sleep Council will do the trick…
Get you hot bottle out and fill it with ice cold water or if you want to make it even colder, pop in the freezer 10 mins before your bedtime and take it out just before. An ice cold hug never felt so good…
7. DON’T have a cold shower
‘A cold shower or bath before bed will actually have the effect of raising your body temperature, so make sure the water is tepid. ‘
And try running your feet and wrists under cold water before going to bed,’ adds Dr Nerina.
8. Move rooms
Heat rises, so on really hot nights you might want to consider moving downstairs to sleep.
If you’re planning on moving the kids down too you could make a game out of it and pretend they are setting up an indoor camp!
9. Ventilate the attic
If you have an attic, 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.
It’s also a good idea to keep your bedroom doors open to help hot air escape and to circulate cool air from your open windows.
10. Don’t stress
Tossing and turning and increased frustration about not getting our NHS-recommended 6-9 hours sleep a night are all counter-productive actions when wanting to sleep.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is take a breath and accept that we’re struggling. Then get up and try something soothing – like reading a book, writing down thoughts or even folding the laundry.
Avoid activities that involve a blue light (i.e. phones or TV) and return to bed when you feel sleepy.
11. Soak your feet in cold water
Heat is lost through your extremities, so soaking your feet in some cold water before you head to bed can help to cool your entire body down.
The water will cool the pulse points on your feet and ankles, instantly helping you to feel a little more sane before sleeping.
12. Try a rice sock
This may seem like a bit of a weird one, but bear with us…
Fill up an old sock with raw rice, tie it with an elastic band at the end and pop in the freezer for a few hours.
Take it to bed with you and use it on your face and neck to cool you down on hot nights – simple and strange, yet effective.
13. Mist a cooling spray
If the hot night air is messing up your little one’s routine as well as yours, keep a water spray (like the ones you use on indoor plants or for ironing) in the fridge and spray your little one to help cool them down when they wake up.
Buy a ready-made one or make your own with half water and half alcohol (bought from the chemist). The alcohol helps the water evaporate faster, which helps your body to cool down.
Try Beauty Formulas’ Body & Face Cooling Mist Spray, £3.99
14. Invest in a fan
A fan is an obvious investment in ensuring good sleep during the heat. And even studies support that electric fans have a “beneficial effect” in extreme heat and humidity.
Get your hands on a fan and position it at the end of your bed or on your bedside table. Some troubled sleepers even swear by sleeping with a fan on all year round if you’re prone to overheating during the night.
Not only will it keep your face and head cool, but they gentle humming noise will soothe you to sleep.
15. Ice the air
This may seem a little elaborate, but if the fan isn’t quite cool enough for you, iced air will do the trick.
Get a tray and fill it with ice and a some water. Position your fan just behind the tray. As the ice melts it makes the air above the water cooler, and then it gets blown in your direction, helping you get a cooler night’s sleep.
16. Cheat your sheets
Put your bedsheets in the fridge – yes, really!
Fold them up, place them in a bag and pop them in the fridge for an hour before bedtime, they’ll keep you cool for long enough to help you drift off.
You could also dampen them slightly, which will keep them cooler for even longer. Just make sure you’re washing your sheets often enough in warm weather…
17. Cotton on to better bedding
Your silky sheets may look fabulous in your boudoir, but they’re definitely not keeping you cool.
Cotton sheets work wonders for a stuffy sleep in a number of ways. The material has breathable qualities which cool down your skin in the night, whilst additionally absorbing any excess body sweat.
For optimum freshness on a balmy summer night, light-coloured cotton is the only way to go. White or cream cotton sheets tend to be lighter in weight and dark colours absorb heat – which we don’t want!
Egyptian cotton is another factor that should be on your checklist as it is especially breathable.
18. Choose the right sleepwear
If you won’t consider sleeping naked during hot nights, then it’s time to rethink your summer PJ’s.
Science says that light, thin materials like cotton aids sleep in the heat as it draws sweat away from your body while still letting your skin breathe.
Clothing that exposes hands and feet are also encouraged, as we lose most heat through our extremities.
Try LaRedoute’s Short Pyjamas in Cotton Mix Jersey with Lace Trim, £18
19. Exercise in the morning
Exercise inevitably increases our core body temperature, which is the last thing we need when trying to get some shut eye on a sweltering night.
Rather than exercising in the evening after work, Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK, Neil Robinson, suggests that we should: ‘exercise first thing in the morning to kick start your metabolism throughout the day, and leave you feeling ready to rest in the evening’.
20. Get outside
Make the most of the sunny spells and 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.
‘Exposure to sunlight is one of the main cues for creating regular sleep-wake patterns,’ says Ivy Cheung, from Northwestern University in the US. Her study into sleep and daylight exposure found you can get 46 extra minutes’ sleep a night this way.
Put this into practice by ensuring a dark room come slumber time. Checking for all light sources – even the shards that creep from behind curtains.
21. Draw the blinds earlier
Shade is an essential component of cooling down. So a simple hack to help you sleep in the heat is to close windows, and draw curtains and blinds during the hottest parts of the day.
This will lower the room temperature considerably. Plus you’ll thank yourself for it later, when the sheets aren’t so sticky.
22. Avoid caffeine and drink plenty of water
Caffeinated drinks are known to raise our blood pressure and increase alertness.
Research has also shown caffeine to cause a rise in body temperature too, so it’s best to avoid caffeinated drinks after 6pm to get a better night’s sleep.
Drink plenty of water in the evening, and keep a glass by your bedside to stay hydrated throughout your sleep.
One study found that dehydration is linked to insomnia too. So be sure to sip some H20 throughout the day as a preventative measure.
23. Say no to spice
Science shows that what you eat before going to sleep affects the body more than you might think.
Studies have found that capsaicin (the active chemical in chillis) increases your body temperature. So it’s probably best to skip spicy food or meals in the run up to bedtime.
Anything too heavy or rich eaten within three hours of going to bed will also make you uncomfortable in the heat. With another study showing that the resulting acid reflux increases sleep problems.
24. Avoid day-time naps
Hot weather often means many of us feel quite drowsy during the day. With this lethargy down to our body using more energy to regulate our core temperature.
Whilst a sunshine siesta might sound ideal, a study found that napping for over 30 minutes can prevent getting precious shut eye later.
This is because you’ll feel less tired and ready for sleep come bedtime.