Too hot to sleep? Here’s how to sleep in the heat

Keep your cool. If you don't have air conditioning, avoid doing things that may raise your body temperature before bed.

Keep your cool. If you don't have air conditioning, avoid doing things that may raise your body temperature before bed. Photo: Getty

With the hot and sticky months approaching, getting a good night’s rest might be difficult.

Especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your bedroom.

“Thermal comfort is really important for sleep,” Dr Chin Moi Chow, associate professor of sleep and wellbeing at the University of Sydney, told The New Daily.

“Sleeping outside the optimal temperature conditions adversely affects sleep. Whether you’re too cold or too hot, that can make you wake up.”

Keep your cool

If you don’t have air conditioning, Dr Gemma Paech, sleep scientist and spokesperson for the Sleep Health Foundation, told The New Daily that people should avoid doing things that may raise their body temperature before bed.

That includes exercise or having a large meal, particularly if it’s carbohydrate-heavy as that can make our bodies warmer.

People often turn to cold showers before bed too.

“Try and keep your house as cool as possible throughout the day and evening as well,” Dr Paech said.

“Consider shutting your blinds during the day so that you’re not letting in too much heat. Or you can use a portable fan.”

As it cools overnight, you might want to keep a window open (if you have a fly screen) to help circulate the air flow in your room.

A lighter bedsheet in the summer, one that isn’t as heat-generating as others, is another option. As is what you wear to bed.

A study from 2019 examined the effects different loose-fitting sleepwear – made from cotton, polyester and Merino wool – had on the sleep quality of adults aged 50 to 70.

Thirty-six participants completed four nights of sleep study at an ambient temperature of 30°C and a relative humidity of 50 per cent.

Dr Chow was one of the authors of the study.

“Under these humid and hot conditions, our participants fell asleep much quicker when they fell asleep in wool sleepwear compared to either polyester or cotton sleepwear,” she said.

Dressed in wool, participants took an average 12.4 minutes to fall asleep, while polyester sleepwear averaged 21.6 minutes. When participants slept in cotton, it took them an average time of 26.7 minutes to sleep.

Dr Chow said participants who slept in wool also experienced less fragmented sleep than when they wore polyester or cotton sleepwear.

Waking up during the night is normal

People often think they have to sleep solidly for an entire night and not wake up once.

But waking up during the night is a normal part of sleep, especially when you’re really feeling the heat.

“Most of us should be able to go back to sleep fairly quickly, within 10 to 15 minutes,” Dr Sutapa Mukherjee, associate professor in respiratory and sleep medicine at Flinders University, told The New Daily. 

If you’re really struggling to fall back asleep then get out of bed and go into a different room.

“Not a room with bright lights, but a dimly lit room where you can do some sort of relaxing activity. That could be reading, listening to music or a podcast until you start to feel relaxed and sleepy again,” Dr Mukherjee explained.

She stressed that it’s important you don’t stay in your bedroom when you’re finding it difficult to fall back to sleep.

“What happens is eventually over a period of time you’ll associate the bedroom with being awake and what we want is the bed to be associated with sleep,” Dr Mukherjee said.

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