Summer weather: How to sleep well in the heat

Much of the country is currently in the grip of a heatwave as what has officially been the hottest year on record comes to an end.

Parts of NSW and Queensland have been hitting the 40 degree mark over the past few weeks, and thanks to El Nino, it is only going to get warmer.

A good night’s sleep and a hot night mix about as well as oil and water but there are things people can try to help combat the warmth and go from a night of tossing and turning to a blissful slumber.

University of Newcastle clinical psychology PHD candidate Caroline Faucher said the body will always start to prepare for sleep by cooling itself down, but the heat can impact this process.

“In the evening, normally, what happens is that your core temperature will lower which is the signal that it’s kind of time to sleep,” she said.

“So, you’re cooling down, your body will reduce its core temperature, and then your brain starts to think, ‘oh hang on, now it’s time to sleep’.

“What happens if it’s too hot, is that it makes it harder to fall or stay asleep.

“So, that can affect your normal sleep quality, because it changes your cycle and that reduces deep sleep, it can reduce your REM sleep, and those are really important.”

Ms Faucher said there are some things you can do to help get a proper night’s rest, even if the mercury is high.

“Your ideal temperature for your bedroom should be around 18 or 19 degrees Celsius,” she said.

“So you can use fans to move the hot hair out and kind of cool down the room. I also like to say that taking a shower or a bath before bed, but not too hot can help.

“Use a water bottle that you’ve put in the freezer before and then place it in your bed ahead of bedtime or cool washcloths. Anything to cool down your body. It all comes back to that.”

If it is hot and you haven’t been sleeping well, Ms Faucher said there are other things people should be doing at all times to help at night.

“Limiting screen time around bedtime is a big one,” she said

“I like to dim the lights, as well, for similar reasons around the house as the bright lights are kind of telling your brain it’s still daytime.

“Anything like alcohol will impair sleep, some people will fall asleep OK, but they might have problems staying asleep.

“And obviously, anything with caffeine, as well as soft drinks and teas, from mid afternoon try to limit that.”

Here are some other things experts suggest to help sleep in the summer:

Draw the curtains

Closing the curtains or shades will help keep both light and heat out of your bedroom and it is a good idea to keep them closed during the day as well so the room doesn’t warm up too much.

Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep and light can prevent its release. This is especially important in daylight savings when it may still be light when you go to bed.

Most importantly the light coming through the window will transmit heat into your bedroom and can make it hot, sticky and uncomfortable.

You should only open your windows if it’s cooler outside than inside, else it will likely have the opposite effect and warm your room up rather than cooling it down.

Drink cool or ice water

We all know drinking water during the day is a good thing to stay hydrated, but drinking cooler or cold water will also help keep body temperature down.

If you are sweating while you are in bed this is especially important to replace the water your body is losing.

Use and wear cooler materials

Wear loose and lightweight clothing to bed to help keep your body a bit cooler at night, and there are also specialty items you can purchase to help get a cooler nights sleep.

Items that are worth looking into are: lighter weight sheets, think linen or cotton, cooling pillows or mattresses can also be purchased that are designed to promote air flow and reduce body temperature.

Another tip is to freeze things like pillow slips and eye masks to help keep your body temperature down.

Don’t exercise before bed

Exercising later in the evening can seem like a good idea in the warmer months but this could actually be impacting your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

It is suggested exercise shouldn’t be completed less than 90 minutes before you go to bed as exercise will warm your body’s temperature, and you should have a cool shower to help cool down afterwards.

Sleep apart

If you are in a relationship and share a bed, your partner’s body heat will warm the bed up even more.

One body is cooler than two, so if you have the option and are struggling to sleep because of the heat, separating is a good idea.

Avoid hot foods

Eating large or heavy meals within two or three hours of going to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Hot or spicy foods especially can increase body temperature, and further disturb your sleep.

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