Sleep often suffers during hot weather. Not only is it uncomfortable, sleepiness is linked to a small drop in body temperature. If the body can’t lose heat, it makes it much harder to fall asleep.
Not everyone has the luxury of air conditioning. It’s not worth it for countries where the hot weather only lasts for a few weeks a year. Sometimes those who have it don’t want to turn it on because of the high energy costs.
Here are 10 top tips to stay cool when it’s too hot to sleep.
#1 – Eat a spicy evening meal
Spicy food encourages sweating. So while it sounds rather counter intuitive, having a spicy evening meal is a great way for the body to lose heat through sweating and cool you down before bed.
But don’t eat a large meal too soon before bed. Your body can’t sleep whist it’s working to digest a meal. It’s best to have your evening meal at least a couple of hours before sleep.
Rice also contains melatonin, a hormone used by the body to make you sleepy. It’s only a very small amount though. It won’t make a huge difference, but it might give you an extra edge when it comes to falling asleep.
#2 – Use a cool pack
Cool packs are great for getting fast cooling relief. The Chillow is one of the best. It’s a large cool pack that you can lay on or slip inside your pillow case to keep you cool.
Some eye masks also have a removable cool pack, or contain special cooling beads that remain cold when you take them out of the freezer. They’re super effective against migraines or heat induced headaches.
Cool packs are great for helping you fall asleep but won’t stay cool the whole night. It’s often a good idea to have a backup in your freezer in case you wake up during the night too hot to sleep.
#3 – Keep your bedroom dark during the day
This is particularly important if your bedroom is on the sunny side of the house. Bedrooms that let the sun in during the day are at risk of heating up like a greenhouse. Hot sunlight enters the room, but if the heat can’t escape, the room slowly heats up.
You need to get the balance between blocking out as much sunlight as possible while still allowing any cool air to come through the open window. Thin curtains work best for this. Well positioned blinds are also good if you can angle them so that they block the sunlight but still leave gaps for the fresh air to enter.
#4 – Drink an ice cold drink
Similar to the advice of drinking plenty of hot liquids during the cold winter. Drinking a cool glass of water not only cools you down from inside but also keeps you hydrated.
Either fill your glass with ice cubes if you intend to drink it soon or stick a bottle in the freezer and let it slowly defrost over night.
Water is the best drink for hydration. An ice coffee or cold beer might sound tempting in hot weather but caffeine and alcohol both harm your sleep.
#5 – Use a fan strategically
Fans create a breeze that cools bare skin, but they don’t cool the air on their own like most people think. They only circulate the air from behind the fan. But when used strategically, fans can be used to push cold air into your room much like an air conditioning unit.
The easiest way to do this is to place the fan near an open window. The outside temperature is cooler than the inside temperature at night, so this helps pull in the colder outside air into your bedroom. Position the fan head to point at your body and you’ll have a cool outside breeze, even if it’s not windy outside.
If you don’t have a suitable window in your bedroom that you can leave open all night, try this. Get a large bowl of water, fill it with as much ice as you can, and place it behind the head of your fan. What this does is create cool sea breeze effect. Bed fans that project air under your sheets are particularly effective when using this method.
#6 – Take a cool shower
Taking a cool shower is a great way to cool off before bed, but perhaps not for the reason you first thought.
Studies show that taking a warm bath or shower helps you sleep better. A slight increase in body temperature later helps the body lose heat more rapidly. And because the body needs to lose a little bit of heat to fall asleep, having a warm bath or shower helps you to fall asleep faster.
The trick is to get the right temperature. If it’s too cold the body will try and body heat. But obviously not too hot or you’ll just heat up. Go for a warm temperature so that you feel slightly warmer. This will best help you lose body heat later in the night.
#7 – Sleep downstairs
The lower you can sleep the better. The basement is best if you have one.
Hot air rises, so it gets noticeably cooler the lower you go. Downstairs is often a good few degrees cooler than upstairs and that can make a big difference to your sleep.
Understandably most people don’t do this because they don’t want to drag their bed downstairs. Luckily you have two inexpensive options you can use to setup a temporary summer bed.
Foam mattress – The thin ones are remarkably cheap and ideal if you only use it a few months of the year. To store, place it upright against a wall or in a cupboard.
Air bed – The best option if storage space is limited. The quality varies dramatically so check the reviews to make sure you don’t buy one that deflates over night.
Being able to quickly set up a temporary bed downstairs is an effective tactic to use during the hottest nights of the year.
#8 – Wash your hands in cool water
Just washing your hands sounds like a rather insignificant method for cooling down, but it’s actually highly effective.
Blood rises near the skin when you’re feeling hot. The hands don’t look that big when compared to your whole body, but your hands and fingers have a very large surface area, with lots of veins carrying blood. So washing them under cool water is a great way to cool the blood which then helps cool down the whole body.
Make sure you wash your wrists too. Here there’s only a thin layer of skin covering a large concentration of blood vessels that transport blood around your body.
#9 – Put your bed sheets in the fridge
Get your pillow case and bed sheets, chuck them in a plastic bag and put the bag in the fridge. Leave for an hour or so and when it’s time for bed you’ll have wonderfully cool bed sheets. You can do the same for pajamas.
It’s a bit of a hassle. You need some fridge space and they’ll quickly warm up, but it’s a useful tactic to keep in mind. It’s best used for the hottest nights to help you fall asleep faster.
#10 – Get a portable air conditioning unit
Drastic times call for drastic measures. If you’ve tried absolutely everything and still feel too hot to sleep, when it might be time to get a portable air conditioning unit. Portable air conditioning is best if you’ll only use it for a few months a year and only intend to use it for the bedroom. You can easily store it when the hot weather is over.
Amazon have got a few good portable air conditioners. They’re not cheap but not hugely expensive either. They’re the only cooling method that will actually refrigerate the air. The benefits of a good night’s sleep often outweigh the initial cost in the long term.
If an air conditioner is too expensive to buy or you only want to use it for a few days a year, consider renting one. Furniture stores often have a few available to rent. But keep in mind that it might be most cost effective to buy one if you intend to keep it for a long period of time.
To use, turn on a few hours before bed. They’re noisy so you probably wouldn’t want to sleep with them on all night. The cheaper units won’t make the room ice cold, but will hopefully cool the air temperature enough to make it comfortable enough to sleep in.