Heatwave insomnia: 32 tips and tricks to help you sleep during hot weather

Woman in bed looking hot and uncomfortable in heatwave
Trying to sleep in a heatwave can be a nightmare but our expert tips should help. (Getty Images)

Britain is set to experience a scorcher this week with parts of the UK expected to be hotter than Barbados as the heatwave continues.

The fair weather Brits amongst us will no doubt be rejoicing at the thought of balmy al fresco drinks and sun-soaked summer picnics.

If only heatwaves didn’t make it so hard to sleep.

As the sun in the UK only really gets its hat on for a few weeks of the year, most of us haven’t bothered to invest in sophisticated air con systems and research has revealed sleeping with the fan on all night can have negative impacts on our health.

So instead, we’re forced to spend the night opening windows and kicking off the covers in a bid to salvage some sort of sweaty sleep, which leaves us waking up too grumpy to enjoy the next day’s sun.

Read more: This cooling pillow could help you sleep in the heat: 'like magic'

“A good night’s sleep is important in order to process information throughout the day, as well as to repair and rebalance the body physically and mentally,” Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s sleep expert told Yahoo UK.

“Ideally, in order for us to sleep well, there needs to be a fractional temperature difference between our body and our brain – a warm body and a cool head.

“The optimum temperature for good sleep is around 19 degrees, but it is important to remember that this is about how you feel and what you need for you.”

With temperatures predicted to hit a record breaking 40 degrees this week, we're a long way from optimum sleep conditions right now.

PUtting sheets and PJs in the freezer can help. (Getty Images)
Putting sheets and PJs in the freezer can help. (Getty Images)

Read more: Prime Day 2022: Get heatwave ready with Amazon's best-selling fan

Thankfully, there are some simple tricks you can use to try to get a good night’s sleep in the heat.

1. Freeze your hot water bottle

This will create guaranteed cold spots in your bed to help cool you down.

2. Put your sheets/PJs in the freezer

Place them in an air-tight bag first though. If you don’t have much room in your freezer, even putting your pillowcase in will help.

3. Unplug your tech

Plugged in devices and light bulbs emit heat, pushing up the overall temperature of a room.

4. Take a pre-bed shower

The Sleep Council recommends taking a cool shower or bath before bed to help “lower your core body temperature”. Keep the temperature cool.

5. Don’t open the curtains or windows all day

Instead adopt the Mediterranean practice of keeping curtains closed during the day but windows open to allow cool air in.

6. Create a through-draft

By opening windows and doors in different rooms and wedging doors open.

7. Switch to a summer duvet

Swap your winter duvet for one with a lighter tog-rating and if you’re still kicking it off, strip the bedding back to just a sheet. A 4.5 tog duvet is ideal for hotter weather.

8. Don’t sleep naked

While it may seem tempting to sleep naked, this could actually make you more uncomfortable. Choose lightweight PJs instead. “Loose-fitting, cotton nightwear is naturally breathable and cooling,” explains Suzy Reading, Tempur sleep expert and chartered psychologist. “But avoid man-made products like nylon and polyester.”

9. Sleep with wet hair

After your pre-bed shower, leave your hair damp to keep you cooler for longer.

A cooling spritz can help us sleep. (Getty Images)
A cooling spritz can help us sleep. (Getty Images)

10. Move downstairs at night (if you live in a multi-storey home)

Heat rises, so on unbearably hot nights, you might want to consider moving downstairs to sleep, if you have a downstairs that is.

11. Sleep alone

It may sound ruthless, but you stand a better chance of keeping cool if you have the bed to yourself. Two bodies mean twice the body heat.

12. Soak your feet in cold water for 10 minutes before bed

Putting your feet in cool water can cool the entire body because of the easy access to circulation in your feet.

13. Use cotton or linen sheets

“Loose-fitting, cotton nightwear is naturally breathable and cooling,” explains Reading. “But avoid man-made products like nylon and polyester.” Cotton is lightweight and absorbs moisture, which helps stop us waking up sweaty.

Read more: What a heatwave does to the body

14. Avoid sun during the day

According to the NHS, the hottest times of day are between 11am and 3pm so try to avoid direct sunlight during this period where possible or stick to the shade.

15. Go alcohol-free

As this is dehydrating and has been proven to interfere with deep sleep.

16. Try to avoid using the oven to keep household temperatures down

Instead stick to salad which has a higher water content and will help keep you hydrated.

17. Eat a light dinner that’s easy to digest

“Our bodies use more energy to digest a large, rich or heavy dinner, which means we produce more metabolic heat,” explains Reading. Stick to lean proteins such as chicken and fish which helps keep your body temperature consistent.

18. Freeze bottles of water to keep beside your bed

A cool drink of water in the night will help keep you hydrated and cool you down.

19. Open the hatch to your loft

If you have an attic or loft, 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.

Watch: UK Weather Forecast London To Swelter On ‘Hottest Day Of Year’ Amid Heatwave Health Warning

20. Chill your socks in the fridge/freezer

If you like to sleep in socks, the Sleep Council recommends cooling them in the fridge first. “Cooling your feet lowers the overall temperature of your skin and body,” it advises.

21. Sleep on a cooling mattress pad

A cooling mattress topper can help to regulate your bed’s temperature for a better, and less sweaty, night’s sleep.

22. Use aloe vera gel to cool your skin

Slather the gel on your skin for an instant cool-down effect and up the ante by putting it in the fridge. As a bonus, aloe vera is an excellent aid for sunburn, too.

23. Keep a cooling spray beside the bed

If you tend to wake up hot and bothered in the night, Reading suggests cooling a facial mist or hydration spray in the fridge before bedtime to keep it next to your bed for instant relief.

24. Sleep on your side

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 more comfortable levels.

Read more: This might help you to sleep better during a heatwave

25. Make your own cold air

Reading suggests putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan to help generate some cold air. “Rather than moving existing warm air around the room, the ice will cool the air circulated by the fan, working to cool your room down,” she explains. But remember not to keep it on all night.

26. Up your water intake

According to Reading, drinking plenty of water in warm weather will help keep you cooler during the day and night. Improve hydration levels further by upping your intake of cucumber, melon, strawberries and salad leaves which all contain lots of water.

27. Breathe yourself cooler

Sitali breathing is a yoga breathing practice and a way to make cool air yourself. “On inhalation only, curl up your tongue like a straw and sip in your breath through your tongue, the air will feel very cool,” suggests Reading. “Then close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose.” This is a soothing practice to use before bed.

28. Put your feet out of the covers

There’s a reason we put our feet out of the covers when we’re hot, as we lose most heat through our extremities.

Cool flannels can lower body temperature. (Getty Images)
Cool flannels can help lower your body temperature. (Getty Images)

29. 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, which in turn will help you sleep.

30. Drink something hot

It might sound crazy but according to experts, drinking something hot can actually help you to regulate your body temperature when it’s hot. Research has shown that hot drinks do initially make you hotter, but they then cause your body to sweat more, releasing heat from the skin’s surface and reducing your overall body heat storage. Just beware of the caffeine in tea and coffee.

31. Sleep with a cool flannel on your forehead

The secret behind body temperature at night is keeping your body warm but your head cool, according to Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Ramlakhan, so sleeping with a cold flannel on your head is the perfect way to achieve this balance. She suggests placing a wet flannel in the fridge before you go to bed, and rest this on your forehead as you drift off.

32. Try a menthol rub

“If you wake up in the night, rub a menthol stick on your forehead to help cool down,” suggests Ramlakhan.