Falling asleep in hot weather can be difficult as your body needs to be cool and comfortable to get a restful night. The greater the heat, the harder this is.
But there are things you can do to help you get the kind of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed the next day -- even when it’s hot.
Understanding why high temperatures affect your sleep can also help.
Why does the heat make it more difficult to sleep?
Research shows there is an ideal temperature for sleep. This is around 18C (65F) or slightly lower. If the room you’re in has an ambient temperature of 24C or higher, you may experience a more disturbed night.
This is because your body temperature naturally drops when you prepare for sleep, and drops further during the night. Your body temperature can be 1 to 2 degrees lower while you’re asleep compared to when you are awake.
But if the temperature in the room is too high, this can affect the body’s ability to cool to its ideal sleeping temperature, which can make your body restless and make it difficult to fall asleep.
If your body is too hot, you may also not experience enough deep sleep, an important stage in your sleep cycle, which can leave you feeling tired and less alert during the following day.
How to get to sleep in the summer heat
Create a cool bedroom environment
Pay attention to your bedroom environment -- have you chosen the coolest part of the house to sleep in?
Hot air rises, so you may find the coolest room is downstairs if you live in a 2-storey house. Consider setting up a bed there.
Keep a thermometer in the room you sleep in and check it before bedtime so you can see how much cooler the room needs to be - remember that the best temperature for sleeping is around 18C.
If the thermometer reading is 24C or higher at bedtime, there are things you can do to push the room temperature down.
For example, you could close the windows, doors, and curtains or blinds in your bedroom in the morning when it’s cooler and keep them closed until bedtime. This will help prevent the temperature in your bedroom from rising during the day as the temperature outdoors increases.
Just before bed, when the temperature outside is lower, open your bedroom windows and doors to allow air to circulate - this should help to cool the room down.
Air conditioning or a ceiling fan can help bring the room temperature down, but if you don’t have these you can circulate cooler air in the room by putting a bowl of ice in front of a free-standing fan.
Use more than 1 fan if you have them, as this will keep air moving even more. Invest in a quiet fan if you can so the noise doesn’t keep you awake.
Keep yourself cool
It’s important to keep your body temperature cool during the day and evening where possible.
Taking a lukewarm (not hot) bath or shower before bedtime can help to lower your skin and body temperature.
You could also try putting a cold, damp cloth or ice pack on parts of your body, such as your armpits, sides of your neck or your groin, as this is where your blood runs close to the skin’s surface. This can also help to cool your body temperature.
You should also avoid doing exercise at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep as physical activity increases your body temperature.
Alcohol or food and drinks that contain caffeine (energy drinks, coffee) before bed can interfere with sleep and make you more dehydrated. Avoiding these can help you stay hydrated and help improve your sleep.
How to stay cool while sleeping
Getting good quality sleep means staying cool throughout the night, not just before you go to bed.
To enable this, swap any heavy blankets or bedding for thin sheets made of a natural fabric like cotton. This will help air to circulate under the sheet, keeping your body cooler.
Any clothes you sleep in should ideally be loose-fitting and made of natural fabrics, as this will help cool your skin.
As hydration is important, take a glass of water to bed with you in case you wake up in the night feeling hot. Try not to drink too much water just before bed as this will increase the chance of needing the toilet during the night.
If you have a fan that doesn’t make too much noise, keep this operating during the night and open any internal doors to allow air to flow freely in the room.
Keep a regular bedtime
If you already have a bedtime routine, stick to it. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help to regulate your body’s internal body clock, making it easier to fall asleep.
Once you’ve created a cool sleeping environment, certain lifestyle changes can also help to make sure you’re getting the best sleep possible.