How to Sleep in the Heat: A Guide for Summer Nights
Sick of tossing and turning at night, desperately trying to find the cold side of the pillow? We all dream of hot weather, but let’s face it, it can make it difficult to get to sleep. If this sounds all too familiar, we can relate, and we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve. Here’s how to sleep in the heat.
How to sleep in hot weather
- Use thin sheets
- Keep hot air out
- Sleep closer to the ground
- Let cool air in
- Wear less clothing
- Switch to breathable fibres
- Chill your socks
- Keep hands & feet out of the duvet
- Sleep on your side
- Drink a hot drink
- Avoid cold showers
- Ventilate the house
- Don’t stress
Why is it hard to sleep when it’s hot?
Us Brits have a love/hate relationship with the warmer weather. One minute we’re asking when summer will arrive and demanding a heatwave, the next we’re complaining it’s too hot. This is particularly true at night.
Most of us don’t have AC, and sometimes a fan just isn’t enough. The ideal temperature for sleep varies person to person, but is around 18.3 degrees Celsius1. Our core body temperature starts to drop around two hours before we go to sleep, coinciding with the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
If this process is interrupted, it may take longer to sleep. It’s also harder to get into a deep sleep, so you may struggle to stay asleep also2. In short: it’s much harder for your body to reach a comfortable sleeping temperature when it’s hot.
How to sleep when it’s hot
The good news is there’s plenty you can do; even during the hottest nights. Let’s take a look at how to sleep when it’s too hot.
1. Use thin sheets
Many of us aren’t fans of sleeping without any cover at all. However, it’s a good idea to swap your thicker duvet and sheets for something thinner. Even on the hottest nights, your body temperature will fall while you sleep, which is why you sometimes wake up feeling cold3.
2. Keep hot air out
On warmer days, close windows/blinds/curtains etc. to keep hot air out. It can be tempting to open all windows all day to make yourself cool, however, it can be counterproductive as the temperature rises.
3. Sleep closer to the ground
Putting your mattress on the floor can have its benefits, with one of them being that it’s cooler4. So, those who overheat at night often prefer it. It’s not for everyone though, and it’s not guaranteed to bring you more comfort.
4. Let cool air in
In the evening, the air tends to be cooler, so you may want to open the windows and invite the breeze in. If possible, keep the windows open while you sleep to ensure cool air circulates your room. However, this isn’t always an option, for example, if you live on a main road.
While sleeping in the heat isn’t always comfortable, noise can negatively impact sleep, and affect the sleep environment. For example, it can:
- Wake you up & lead to fragmented sleep
- Cause the extra production of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, as well as elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Lead to irritability
- Affect mental health5
5. Wear less clothing
Many people choose to sleep naked in the hot weather, or indeed all year round, as it’s obviously cooler. While that’s not for everyone, having cooler, ‘summer’ pajamas might just be a good idea, for example a lighter t-shirt.
6. Switch to breathable fibers
Be strategic about what you wear to bed; it’s not all about how much/little you’re wearing, but also the fabric. Choose breathable fibers where possible, such as:
Meanwhile, wool and fleece may actually promote overheating.
7. Chill your socks
Don’t have a fan? There are other options out there. Dunk your feet in cold water, fill a hot water bottle with ice water, or chill your socks in the fridge and then put them on. Cooling your feet down will cool down your overall body temperature and help stop you from overeating. Feet are particularly sensitive to heat as they have many pulse points7.
8. Keep your hands & feet out of the duvet
Don’t wear socks at night and feel free to let your feet dangle out of the bed. Hands and feet are key to keeping cool at night8, so keeping them away from the duvet may help you sleep.
9. Sleep on your side
Sleeping on your side exposes more of your body to the air, regulating body temperature and letting heat escape. This can help you feel more comfortable.
10. Drink a hot drink
It might sound odd, but a hot drink can cool you down in specific circumstances. For example, on a hot, dry day, when you don’t have clothing on that prevents your sweat from easily evaporating, a warm drink may help cool you down9. But, if it’s humid, don’t try drinking a hot drink.
11. Avoid cold showers
Tepid water is better than cold water before bed, as cold water can actually raise body temperature.
12. Ventilate the house
If you have an attic, open the windows up there. Heat rises, so this will give it somewhere to escape to.
13. Don't stress
Try not to get yourself too stressed if you’re struggling to sleep. It can be easier said than done, but stress and sleep negatively impact one another, and can lead to a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Instead, try practicing relaxation techniques, such as listening to relaxing music or deep breathing.
Get a good night's sleep all year round
For many of us, it’s much easier to get to sleep in the winter months when it’s significantly cooler. However, there are plenty of techniques you can try, even in the hottest weather. You should also ensure your general sleep routine is healthy; avoid long naps, block out light, keep your bedroom clean and tidy.
- The Best Temperature for Sleep – Sleep Foundation
- 6 Simple Tips for Sleeping in the Heat – Healthline
- Hot weather: How to sleep in the heat – BBC News
- Is sleeping on the floor actually good for you? – Medical News Today
- How Noise Can Affect Your Sleep Satisfaction – Sleep Foundation
- Find Out What You Really Should Be Wearing to Bed – Sleep.org
- 5 Unexpected Ways To Keep Your Cool When The Mercury Rises – Prima
- How to get to sleep in the heat on a summer night – Goodto
- A Hot Drink on a Hot Day Can Cool You Down – Smithsonian Magazine