How to get a good night’s sleep in the heat

As the mercury rises, so does the likelihood you’ll be tossing and turning all night. Here are some tips to help you sleep in the heat.

We may love warm summer days, but fun in the sun can quickly become a nightmare when it’s time to get some sleep in the heat.

Experts say we need at least seven hours of sleep for optimal health – and that sleep deprivation is associated with health issues, including heart disease and obesity.

But if the weather isn’t cooperating, don’t sweat it.

These hot-night sleep hacks will help you keep your cool on those sticky evenings and nod off in no time.

Why is it so hard to sleep in the heat?

If you find it impossible to get decent sleep on warm nights, you’re not alone.

A global study using more than 10 billion observations from sleep-tracking wristbands found higher night-time temperatures make it harder to sleep, with an average decline of at least 14 minutes at 30℃.

According to the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Sleep Science director Jen Walsh, our body temperature naturally drops during the night, and a cool environment is ideal for a solid night’s sleep.

“When you lie down to go to sleep, your body temperature should be declining,” Jen says.

“If there’s not much difference between the ambient temperature and your own temperature, it’s harder for your body to cool down, making it difficult to fall asleep.”

Sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo says melatonin – the hormone that regulates sleep – is produced during this drop in body temperature.

“This means if you get too hot, your body will have less melatonin and, as a result, you are more likely to sleep lightly or wake through the night,” Olivia says.

The great doona debate

In some households, the temperature in the bedroom can be as contentious as the position of the toilet seat.

“Anecdotally, there’s a suggestion that women like the bedroom warmer while men prefer a cooler sleeping environment, but the evidence is pretty limited,” Jen says.

“Sleep temperature preferences are more likely related to the individual than to gender differences.”

However, while we all have the same core body temperature, men typically have more muscle mass, which can generate more heat.

Jen says a woman’s menstrual cycle can also cause temperature fluctuations throughout the month – particularly during perimenopause.

“That can definitely make it harder for women, at certain times during their cycle, to sleep.”

If your bedroom becomes a battleground in summer, Jen says the solution is to do it like the Swedes.

“I’m a big fan of the Swedish way – that is, having separate bed coverings if you’re sharing a bed so you can individually regulate your preferred sleeping temperature.”

Tips to help you sleep in the heat

Research shows room temperature is one of the most important factors determining sleep quality, with the optimal range being between 17℃ and 19℃.

Jen suggests lowering the ambient temperature with an air-conditioner and improving airflow with a fan and open windows.

“Wear minimal clothing and have a cool shower before getting in bed – even get into bed slightly damp,” she says.

To help you get a good night’s rest when it’s hot, you may also want to try the following:

Before bedtime

  • Maintain consistent sleep times and limit naps.
  • Don’t sleep with pets.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Sleep in the coolest room in the house.
  • Wet your face, arms and hair.
  • Put ice in front of a fan.

Once you’re in bed

  • Keep cold water by the bed.
  • Distract yourself with relaxing music.
  • Use a spray bottle to mist your face and body.
  • Apply wet cloths or ice packs to your wrists, armpits and groin.

Avoid these habits

  • Exercising close to bedtime
  • Eating heavy or spicy food before bed
  • Having chocolate, caffeinated drinks and alcohol

Invest in these items

  • A cooling mattress pad
  • Bedding made of natural fibres
  • A lighter, summer doona

Written by Dimity Barber.