Heat, summer and sleep
This blog post was created by our Sleep Coach Jessica Rojas.
Summertime. We are looking forward to that time of the year, aren’t we? Summertime means outdoor fun: bike rides, pool or beach time, barbecue with friends and family, enjoying beautiful summer evenings. In a nutshell, summer means happy times.
But, as much as we enjoy the warm season, it often deprives us of sleep at night. We toss and turn restlessly, kicking off the covers, annoyed by the buzzing of the mosquitoes. So, the question is, why do we sleep worse in the summertime, and how does the heat affect our sleep.
Sleeping in the summer
Normally, our body needs to cool down about half a degree or even more, before falling asleep. However, if the environment is too hot, our internal natural air conditioning system, which is responsible for dropping our core body temperature, is disturbed in its function, and we find it more difficult to go to sleep. The ideal temperature for the bedroom would be around 16 to 20 degrees Celsius, which is not possible during summertime. And when we are warm, our brain may perceive this as a signal to stay awake, especially if we're used to lower temperatures throughout the rest of the year. This is the reason why we have trouble sleeping during summertime - it's simply too hot. We need to drop our body temperature and in this post, I want to share with you my nine tips that will help you survive summertime and have fun, but not lose your sleep over it.
9 Tips on how to sleep during the hot summer nights
Tip #1: Do not sleep without sheets
Even if it seems logical at first to sleep without sheets, it's not a good idea, especially if you are sweating a lot at night. The temperature will drop at night and if your body is wet, you can easily catch a cold. So instead, cover yourself with a light cotton sheet. The advantage is it absorbs moisture so that you feel dry despite sweating and at the same time ensures that your body does not cool down too much during the night.
Tip #2: Do not sleep without clothes
Similar principle to tip number one. I know a lot of people prefer this in the summertime, but what we said about sheets is true with this as well. So, better wear loose pajamas or a cotton nightgown. The fabric will not stick to your sweaty body at the same time it will protect you from cooling down at night too much.
Tip #3: Shower before going to bed
You might now envision a really ice-cold shower, but I'm not talking about that. Ice cold water causes your pores to contract and accumulated heat can no longer be released to the outside. A lukewarm shower is a much more suitable option. This way, the pores will widen, and the heat can better escape from your body, so you will not overheat throughout the night.
Extra tip: if you have swollen feet, it's good to give your feet and legs, an upward shower with cool, really ice water. Not your whole body, just your feet and your legs. Up to your knees, more or less.
Tip #4: Darken and ventilate your bedroom
Darken your bedroom during the day, and only ventilate once before going to bed. This will keep the heat out throughout the day and at night, before you go to bed, just ventilate. Open the window and let the cooler and fresh air in for a while. And then, as well, turn off all electrical appliances, because they emit additional heat, and you don't want any heat source in your bedroom.
Tip #5: No air conditioning
This might sound strange because I just said we need a cooler environment, but it’s better to sleep without air conditioning during the night because the cold air can lead to neck tension, eye inflammation, or catching a cold. So, try other ways to keep your bedroom cool, for example, hang a damp sheet in front of your window.
Tip #6: Provide cooling
How can you provide cooling without air conditioning? Start with cooling parts of the body that heat up the most. For example, a wet calf wrap can really help with heavy legs. But be careful to remove the wrap before going to sleep. You can just use a wet towel and wrap it around your feet and your calves, or your arms, but don't sleep with it the whole night. You can also try filling your hot water bottle with cold water and placing it in the fridge before going to bed. Or place your pillow, your comforter or your sheet in a plastic bag and put them in a freezer for a few hours before bedtime.
Tip #7: Relax before going to sleep
In the summertime, we’re always active. There is more light in the evenings and outdoor activities are to the maximum, which is great. But it's also important to wind down before bedtime during the summer months. Your body needs that transitioning phase. Therefore, do not exercise shortly before going to bed, avoid heavy foods and alcohol in the evenings, because the wrong food and alcohol can cause you sleep disorders. Your body already has a harder time going to sleep, you don't want to make it more difficult. Alcohol is a tricky business anyway, although it makes you drowsy and you feel like it's easier for you to doze off into sleep, you will wake up again after a short time, and can only continue to sleep in a very unrestful way so you won't have a good quality sleep, if you sleep at all.
Tip #8: Turn off your smartphones or other electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime
Don't have them in your bedroom, don't watch them, don’t scroll through Facebook or Pinterest or any other social media. At least, give yourself a curfew of two hours before going to bed when electronic devices are not allowed.
Tip #9: Keep a cool head. Don't get anxious, or too frustrated if you can't sleep
This is not helping matters at all. So, if you have been tossing and turning in bed for more than half an hour, it's better to get up instead of desperately craving sleep and getting frustrated, anxious, and angry. You will not sleep if you have these feelings because then your body will kick into stress mode which is like the survival mode. This will emit cortisol and cortisol is like your “Hello, wake up” hormone. Instead, get up, leave your bedroom, read a book or listen to music. Don't go back to bed until you feel really, really tired. In any case, you should refrain from using your smartphones, computer screens, any kind of light exposure. The blue light simulates daylight, stimulates your brain, and you will wake up even more. Instead, do a jigsaw puzzle, read something, listen to music, do some yoga exercises. Anything that is gentle, quiet, and relaxed and as soon as you feel sleepy, go back to bed.