Too hot to sleep? 10 ways to beat the heat

Kim Easton Smith
18 July 2013


The glorious summer days we’ve been enjoying come with a downside – hot, sticky night times that make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

And we can’t be the only ones who are getting grumpy and irritable despite the lovely sunshine, after spending the night tossing and turning. So we asked Dave Gibson, sleep expert at London bed makers Warren Evans, for his advice on keeping cool and sleeping soundly.
 
“Most scientists agree that, in general, a cool room helps you to get to sleep easier,” Dave explains. “Some suggest that if you are sleeping in temperatures above 24°C, you’re likely to wake up during the night.

“Your body temperature naturally falls during the second stage of sleep, reaching its lowest point about four hours after the onset of sleep, which is why you might start off above the covers but feel the need for them later in the night.”


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Dave’s top 10 tips to stay perfectly cool and sleep well:
 
1. Keep windows and shades completely closed during the day. Most people think that opening them will help circulate air - but actually it has the opposite effect. Keep them closed to help reduce the temperature in the room. Open them at night when the air temperature reduces.

2. Move the air around. If you can afford to, then invest in an air conditioning unit (which can also act as a dehumidifier). If not, get a fan to create a cross-draft. If it’s unbearably hot then add a cold wet sheet between you and the fan or even a bucket of ice in front of the fan to further reduce the temperature.

3. Go to bed cool. If you go to bed feeling hot and bothered you’re less likely to get to sleep easily and more likely to wake during the night.

Have a cool shower before bed. If you are still too hot, try an ice pack (wrapped in a damp towel) on the back of your knees or neck, which is a quick way of cooling your body.

Equally stick your feet in a bucket of cold water before bed or put on a pair of damp socks. Or try putting on a damp a thin sheet to cover you, as they do in the Middle East.

4. Keep bedding light. Get rid of the duvet and choose the lightest sheets possible (cotton and then silk). You want cover that is non-absorbent so they don’t absorb your sweat. If you are sharing a bed then use separate sheets to avoid the extra potential of disturbing each other as you are more likely to toss and turn.

If you go for no sheets at all, keep one at the end of the bed that you can pull on if you wake and are too cold. If you have a foam rubber pillow you may want to swap it out during the summer as it absorbs heat and can get very hot.

5. Get cold feet! Uncover your feet if you are using a sheet, as this will also cool you down

6. Pyjama ban. An obvious one, but rethink what you wear to bed.


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7. Hydrate. Drink enough water in the day. If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to get a headache/body ache prior to bed. Coffee/tea don’t count as they are diuretics and you need an equal amount of extra water to flush the caffeine they contain through the kidneys. Of course, if you drink tea/coffee too late the caffeine will also keep you awake at night.

8. Limit the noise. Open windows mean that outside noise may be a problem. Earplugs are an obvious solution. Or try putting on some low volume relaxing (unfamiliar if possible) music with no lyrics. Given that fans produce white noise this may be a bonus to block outside noise.

9. Control the light. Use dark, heavy blinds to filter out the light if you are going to sleep before dusk. Also try a neye mask to make sure your regular sleep routine isn’t broken by the long hours of daylight and bright mornings.

Avoid the temptation to stay awake longer in the lighter nights, as routine tends to be the best way (in the modern world of the electric light bulb) of ensuring that you get to sleep easily. Also block off all sources of LED light sources. Switch off or turn them over. Don’t switch on the full light to go to the toilet or if you get up during the night as it wakes you up.

10. Allergy management. Pollen can be a massive problem in the spring and summer, keeping many of us awake. You can fight the problem using an air purifier and close the windows as soon as possible in the morning to stop the pollen coming in.

Also try showering before bed, including washing your hair, to remove pollen. Anecdotal suggestions are that local honey can help with allergic responses too. (For more hay fever banishing tactics try our guide to beating summer allergies.)

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