How to sleep in the heat: 25 expert tips for getting to sleep in a heatwave

Get a good night's sleep with our tips on how to keep you and your children cool on those hot, sticky summer nights...

A fan on a windowsill and the back of a man's legs on a bed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Snore through the heatwave thanks to these 24 easy, expert-approved hacks on how to sleep in the heat.

Summer may be our favourite season, but the temperatures can often cause havoc to our sleeping patterns. With the extra heat leaving us restless, searching for ways to fall asleep fast and feeling over tired as a result. And when you consider how much it costs to run a fan, it's great to have some budget-friendly options under your belt too.

As sleep expert and author 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."

Dr Nerina
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina has over 25 years of experience of helping people and organisations to thrive by using a unique blend of physiology, psychology, philosophy, professional and personal insights to create profound shifts in awareness and consciousness. Her work is always practical and she is well known for sharing ‘small things that make a big difference’

How to sleep in the heat: 24 tips

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 key to keeping cool" at night. So say goodbye to socks and be sure to let these limbs dangle out of the duvet. 

Feet poking out of the bottom of bed sheets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 in the journal Brain found that cooler body temperature can increase your metabolism and help you burn calories while you sleep, as well as stop you from getting a yeast infection by limiting the warm, moist areas for bacteria to grow.

3. 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 lowering your 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."

A woman lying down with a flannel on her forehead

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. 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.

5. 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, get your hot bottle out and fill it with ice-cold water. 

You should avoid putting your hot water bottle in the freezer, however. Dr Patel, resident sleep expert at Time4Sleep explains: "Rather than freezing a hot water bottle with cold water, as this could damage the hot water bottle material, fill it with very cold water and leave this in the bed for an hour before you go to sleep.

"Before drifting off be sure to remove the cold hot water bottle from the bed as contact with skin is likely to cause discomfort and at very low temperatures, possible skin damage."

6. DON’T have a cold shower

The experts at Make My Blinds told us that although having a cold shower may seem like the most obvious method to help you cool down before you go to bed, it could actually make you feel worse. They said, "Just before you go to bed, it’s worth having a lukewarm shower as this can help lower your body temperature, while a cold shower will do the opposite and raise it."

Or, what you could do instead,  is run your wrists under cold water. Martin Seeley, the CEO and sleep expert at MattressNextDay, says, "When you brush your teeth before bed, you should also run your wrists under cold water for a few minutes before bedtime, as this quickly cools your body down."

Martin Seeley
Martin Seeley

The founder and CEO of MattressNextDay, Martin Seeley has been in the sleep industry since the 80s. Having started out working with his Dad, mattresses are in Martin’s blood, and he loves providing customers with any help possible to get the best night’s sleep. A prominent figure in the bed world, Martin knows how to overcome any sleep-related problem, offering you the most expert advice and information on a range of health and lifestyle matters. He has been featured in renowned publications such as Men’s Health, Forbes and GQ, as well as ITV’s This Morning.

7. 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 you're setting up an indoor camp!

8. Ventilate the attic

While it's generally thought best to keep windows closed in hot weather, 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.

A woman leaning out of an attic window

(Image credit: Getty Images)

9. 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.

10. 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. Just like Martin's recommendation of running your wrists under cold water, soaking your feet will cool the pulse points on your feet and ankles, instantly helping you to feel a little cooler before sleeping.

11. 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.

You could 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.

12. Choose the best sleeping position

Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert at Dreams has provided her favourite sleeping positions to ensure you stay comfortable, whilst also combatting the effects of the heatwave this summer:

  • The "Starfish" Position: Lying on your back with your limbs spread out can assist in cooling the body, as it maximizes the surface area exposed to the air.
  • The "Spoon" Position: Some people find sleeping on their back tricky so sleeping on your side with a pillow placed between your knees can help align the spine and allow for better airflow. 
  • The "Freefall" Position: While lying on your stomach may not be ideal for everyone, this position can be advantageous during hot weather. Placing a cool towel beneath yourself, or using a cooling pillow, can help regulate body temperature and prevent overheating, and can also be used to cool yourself before getting into your usual sleepy position.
  • The "Back Sleeper" Position: Lie on your back with a thin to keep your head slightly elevated. This can prevent excessive heat build-up, as heat tends to rise.
  • The "Legs Up" Position: Lie on your back and elevate your legs by placing a pillow or cushion under your knees. This position may help to improve circulation and reduces tired, achey, and puffy legs, allowing for better blood flow and heat dissipation.
  • The "Side-Back Combo" Position: Begin by lying on your side with a pillow between your knees for spinal alignment. After some time, switch to lying on your back, keeping a thin pillow under your head. This alternating position helps prevent pressure points and allows air to circulate around your body.

A woman lying on her back aleep

(Image credit: Getty Images)

13. 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.

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 the gentle humming noise could soothe you to sleep. Although some experts have warned us that sleeping with a fan on could be bad for you, so you might want to use this tip sparingly.

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.

Mary Love, Head of Product & Innovation at sustainable sleep-tech firm Simba says, "Air-con units in homes across England are hard to come by… not to mention expensive. So why not create your own? Put some ice in a shallow baking tray, pan or bowl and place it in front of a high-quality fan. As the ice begins to melt, the breeze will pick up the moisture and disperse a cooling mist across the room. This will make a huge difference on those stuffy nights!"

A child stood in front of a fan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 - no one wants sweaty bedding!

17. Cotton on to better bedding

Your silky sheets may look fabulous in your boudoir, but they're definitely not keeping you cool. Meanwhile, 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!

18. Choose the right sleepwear

If you won't consider sleeping naked during hot nights, then it's time to rethink your summer PJs - and once again, cotton is the way to go. A study in the Nature and Science of Sleep journal found 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.

Mary Love told us, "What you wear to bed has a huge effect on how well you sleep. Loose-fitting, well-ventilated cotton pyjamas are the best option, as cotton has moisture-absorbing properties that will help keep the sweat from your body and ultimately, allow for an improved level of comfort. Avoid synthetic materials that will cling to you at night."

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.

Much like when it's too hot to walk your dog, it's best to opt for exercising earlier in the day. 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".

A woman on an exercise bike

(Image credit: Getty Images)

20. Get outside

Make the most of the sunny spells and get outside during the day. You could even take a dip in a paddling pool - as long as there's no hosepipe ban, of course!

Martin Seeley told us, "Whilst you should keep your bedroom away from the light, you should personally try and spend as much time out in throughout the day. This is because light plays the most integral role in regulating your body’s internal clock, as it signals to your brain when to be alert and when to rest. 

He adds, "By the time you get to bed, your bedroom should be virtually black, so your brain knows that it’s bedtime. If your blind or curtain situation doesn’t allow this, keep an eye mask near your bed to block the light out."

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, and you'll thank yourself for it later, when the sheets aren't so sticky.

Mary Love says, "Instead of opening your curtains in the morning, keep your curtains closed throughout the day to block the sunlight from coming in and heating up your room. You can open them back up when the sun sets, and it isn’t shining brightly into your room."

22. Avoid caffeine and drink plenty of water

Caffeinated drinks are known to raise our blood pressure and increase alertness. Research in the Journal of Biological Rhythms 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.

Mary says, "An obvious tip for hot weather no matter what is to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. We lose water in our bodies more in the heat from sweating, so it’s important to keep the level of fluids in our bodies up. The recommended amount of water to drink per day when it’s hot is three litres, so sticking to that can also help come bedtime."

23. Say no to spice

Science shows that what you eat before going to sleep affects the body more than you might think. A study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry 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. And another study by the American College of Gastroenterology has shown that the resulting acid reflux increases sleep problems.

24. Flip your pillow

Mary says: "Everyone loves that feeling of flipping your pillow over to the cool side. When the heat is unbearable and you’re getting a little clammy, don’t forget to flip over and enjoy that momentary respite from the heat."

Additionally, Martin says you could try putting your pillow in the freezer for 15 minutes before you plan on hitting the hay.

25. Avoid day-time naps

Hot weather often means many of us feel quite drowsy during the day, because our body uses more energy to regulate our core temperature. So whilst a sunshine siesta might sound ideal, a study in the Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine journal found that napping for over 30 minutes can prevent getting precious shut-eye later.

If you must nap, Martin told us, "You should only sleep for between 10-20 minutes as anything longer than 30 minutes can risk feeling groggy as your body will have entered a deep sleep cycle. "

He added: "Also, make sure to time your nap right. As your alertness naturally dips in the afternoon, you should pay attention to when you start to feel drowsy and nap straight away (if possible). Make sure this is more than 8 hours before your bedtime though, as it could impact your sleep if not."

If you're looking for more tips to help beat the hot weather, we've also got tips on how to keep the house cool, how to cool down a baby and how to stay cool during pregnancy.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.

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