It’s been hot lately, as you know. If the soaring temperatures and power cuts have been keeping you up at night, you’re not alone. But a heat wave doesn’t have to spell disaster for your sleep. With a little strategising, you can get cool and comfortable too.
According to Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, US, the weather plays a big role in how well one sleeps. This is because our body temperature drops while we’re asleep and usually, the deeper we sleep, the lower it goes. “Part of the process that allows you to sleep is getting rid of some of the heat load you’ve generated throughout the day,” explains Zee.
In fact, research shows there’s actually a sleep-inducing, not-too-cold, not-too-hot body temperature. The obvious way to achieve would be an air conditioner. But if that’s not possible, here are a few suggestions compiled from The Huffington Post that can help rake in those extra hours at night.
1. Stay hydrated
Drink up! “Sweating is one way the body cools down but you need to be hydrated enough to let your perspiration actually work,” Zee says. So make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Some people try to avoid drinking a lot of liquids before going to bed to avoid 3am bathroom trips, but don’t worry too much.
2. Skip an ice bath
According to Zee, a cold shower is not necessarily the best way for you to chill out. “Though your body needs to cool off, if your extremities get too cold too fast, the blood vessels actually constrict and keep the heat in,” Zee says. “You don’t want to fool your body into thinking you’re cold. You want your brain to think that you’re hot so that it tries to get rid of the heat.”
Instead, opt for a moderate, room-temperature shower — just cold enough to feel refreshing — which can help your blood vessels dilate and get rid of heat to cool you down.
3. Think ventilation
Use a fan and make sure you do so strategically. If you feel hotter than most people, perhaps you could invest in a portable fan to supplement the one already on your ceiling. Position it low on the ground or near a window to circulate some of that cooler air, Zee suggests.
4. Stay low
Keep in mind that hot air rises and so, the closer you can sleep to the ground, the better. If you live in a multiple-story house or apartment, try sleeping on the ground floor or basement where the temperature will likely be a few degrees lower and if you can’t go downstairs, sleep on the floor for some added relief. Not only is sleeping on the floor from time to time a good wake-up call for your back, but the cool tiles will also help soothe your body temperature as well.
5. Give your mattress a break
Your pillow top might feel like a dream but on super-hot nights, it can be quite a sneaky sleep saboteur. “Thick mattresses tend to retain body heat,” Zee says. You’re probably not going to swap mattresses for a few hot summer nights, but if you tend to feel hot when you sleep, consider that when picking your next mattress. “And if you decide to try out your floor for sticky evenings, a thin pad or cushion will let your body heat escape,” she added.
6. Dress loose and light
This may be an obvious one, but it’s worth repeating. The right sleepwear can make all the difference between you waking up feeling rested and you waking up in sweat-drenched sheets and pyjamas. Loose, light and natural or dry-fit fabrics are best for drying sweat quickly.
7. Move up your workout
If your schedule allows, move your gym session earlier up in the day. There’s plenty of evidence that clocking regular exercise is great for your sleep. But working out too late at night, especially in hot and humid weather, is going to further increase your core body temperature. “This means that your body now has to make a bigger drop to get to that ideal temperature for sleeping,” Zee claims.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2016.