August 01, 2022 3 min read
With the summer season in full swing, the days are sunny and long but the nights can get too hot for comfort.
Heat waves have become more common in the past decade, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, with a national average of 6 heat waves per year. For many living in warm areas without an AC unit, that means less quality sleep this summer.
The main reason it’s so hard to sleep in hot weather is that our core body temperature needs to drop for us to feel sleepy. A warm environment can interfere with this process, making it difficult to fall asleep and waking you up through the night. But there are ways to beat the heat for refreshing sleep and that doesn’t involve running the AC all night.
Close all windows and draw the curtains as soon as morning temperatures rise above 68°F. Blackout curtains are also great for keeping sunlight from warming up your home. If your windows and doors have any gaps, seal them with caulk, weatherstripping, silicone, and expandable foam before the next heatwave.
If your indoor thermometer reading is higher than the outside temperature, open the windows to let cooler air in. You may also want to consider placing a box fan facing outward to blow hot air out of your bedroom. Similarly, if you want cool air to get in, use a box fan that faces in. Alternatively, set the ceiling fan counterclockwise to push cool air downwards.
Avoid polyester sheets and sleepwear and opt for natural and breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, bamboo, and silk. Cotton fibers are soft and hollow, making them cool and highly absorbent, while the other fibers are moisture-wicking. And according to one study published inNature and Science of Sleep, wool sleepwear also leads to less fragmented sleep in hot weather.
This one may seem counterintuitive but science shows it works! One systematic review and meta-analysis found that taking a warm bath slightly above your body temperature, 1 to 2 hours before bedtime for as little as 10 minutes helps people fall asleep sooner. The researchers suggest this is because warm baths cause body heat dissipation and a drop in core body temperature.
Sleep on the ground floor if you live in a house or sleep on the floor (on a futon or floor mattress). Hot air is less dense than cold air, which causes it to rise up. So, you’re more likely to feel cooler lying low than on the upper floors of your home.
Fill a hot water bottle and place it in the freezer for a couple of hours. When you’re ready to go to bed, put the now frozen bottle under the covers to keep yourself cool through the night. A more expensive and fancy way to keep yourself cool is by investing in a cooling mattress pad actively. These passively regulate your temperature with the help of breathable materials or gels.
Exercising normally helps everyone sleep better. But it may be a good idea to avoid strenuous exercise during hot weather and right before going to bed. Studies show that strenuous exercise raises core body temperature by a few degrees and for at least an hour. Move your workout routine to the morning or early afternoon for better sleep.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change Indicators: Heat Waves. Updated February 17, 2022.https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-heat-waves#:~:text=Data%20%7C%20Technical%20Documentation-,Key%20Points,2010s%20(see%20Figure%201).
Science Direct. Cotton Fiber. Accessed June 2022.https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/cotton-fibre
Haghayegh S, Khoshnevis S, Smolensky MH, Diller KR, Castriotta RJ. Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Sleep Med Rev. 2019;46:124-135.doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008
O'Connor PJ, Breus MJ, Youngstedt SD. Exercise-induced increase in core temperature does not disrupt a behavioral measure of sleep.Physiol Behav. 1998;64(3):213-217.doi:10.1016/s0031-9384(98)00049-3
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