40 Tips for Better Sleep on Summer Nights
Hot tips to keep you cool—all night long.
Summer nights might be associated with romance and fun, but for some of us, they’re equally linked with tossing and turning, sweating, and lying in bed cursing the heat. And even if you are sleeping through the night, the weather could still be affecting you. Research published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology reveals that hot weather can disrupt your slow wave and REM cycles, meaning your quality of sleep is suffering, whether you wake up or not.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make it easier to sleep through the night, even when it’s unreasonably hot out—and herein, we’ve rounded the best ones up. And if you need a little extra help getting some rest, check out these 10 Genius Tricks for Falling Back Asleep in the Middle of the Night.
Take a Hot Shower
It probably seems counterintuitive when it’s basically boiling outside, but a hot shower before bed is just the thing to help you fall asleep on a hot summer night. According to research published in Sleep, a drop in body temperature before bed can be a physiological trigger for falling asleep. So, boosting your body temperature a little bit with a hot shower can help jumpstart that reaction. A few caveats: steam from a hot shower can make the heat worse in your place, so be sure to crack a window or turn on a fan. And don’t stay in there for too long, because that can lead to itchy, dry skin. And if dry skin is already a problem in your life, check out these 20 Habits That Make Dry Skin Worse.
Check Your Thyroid
Hyperthyroidism, an overproduction of thyroid hormone, affects countless men and women of all ages. When it hits, it can cause, among other things, trouble sleeping and an oversensitivity to heat, making it harder to sleep in the summer. Luckily, when you want to make sure your thyroid stays in tip-top shape, you can start with the 20 Best Ways to Have a Healthier Thyroid.
For a quick cool down that doesn’t require much effort or any expense, take a crack at a cooling breathing pattern known in yoga as sitali pranayama. To practice, sit with your head, neck, and spine in alignment, then open your mouth in an O shape. Roll your tongue into a little tube and stick it through the opening in your lips. Then breathe in slowly through your mouth, kind of like you’re drinking through a straw. Close your mouth and exhale through your nostrils. Repeat these steps for two to three minutes, and you’ll be surprised how much cooler you feel. You can also use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, which means you’ll also be less stressed when you’re finished. And if you really want to bliss out before bed, check out 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Listen to the Rain
The sound of rain is interpreted by your brain as a “non-threat,” according to Dr. Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University. Rain is also “pink noise,” a type of broad-spectrum sound that can increase the amount of deep sleep you get if you listen to it during the night, according to research published in Neuron.
On top of all that, many people subconsciously associate the sound of rain with cooler weather, so it’s possible to trick your brain into thinking it’s not as hot as it really is. There are apps, noise machines, and even videos on YouTube that can provide you with an entire night’s worth of rain to help you sleep better when the heat is high. And if you think skimping on rest isn’t such a big deal, This Is Why Losing Just One Night of Sleep Is Seriously Bad for You.
Wear the Right Pajamas
The debate over whether it’s better to sleep naked or in pajamas when it’s hot outside is still unsettled, with one side arguing less clothing is cooler, and the other saying when you’re naked there’s no fabric to wick away moisture, which makes you hotter. But one thing everyone can agree on is that you can’t be wearing flannel jam-jams to bed in July. Instead, go for a loosely woven cotton, or fabric designed specifically to wick moisture away, like a bamboo-viscose blend. And if you think you need more than new PJs to sleep through the night, learn these 20 Doctor-Approved Ways to Get a Full Night’s Sleep.
Bust Out the Wool
Once summer hit, you might have thought you were done with wool until November, but think again. Assuming you’re not allergic, a wool mattress topper can help keep you cool all night long. Wool is naturally thermo-regulating and breathable, which means it reacts to your body temperature and can absorb and then release moisture. So, if your mattress turns into a miniature hot plate once the temperatures start soaring, consider getting a wool mattress cover instead of a traditional foam one.
Buy the Right Sheets
If you know you’re a hot sleeper, or you frequently wake up in the middle of the night from sweating, you should consider buying PeachSkin Sheets, which are made with a moisture-wicking smart fabric that is specifically designed with night sweats in mind. And if too many nights of lost sleep are already getting to you, here are 15 Ways to Bounce Back From a Bad Night’s Sleep.
Turn to Nature
Black Cohosh has long been used to treat hot flashes, but it may be just as effective at helping you sleep comfortably. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that it may help regulate internal body temperature, so if you’re burning up all night long, this supplement may help your suffering. And if you really want to maximize your health, these are the 10 Supplements You Should Be Taking.
Exercise Before Bed
You might think that exercise before bed is a terrible idea, but do it right, and you’ll be glad you picked up the habit. Try to exercise around an hour before bed, which will tire you out and still give your heart rate adequate time to drop back down to normal. Follow it all up with a hot shower, and you can trigger that body temperature drop that helps you fall asleep.
Try Migraine Patches
If you’ve never had a migraine, you might not know about migraine cooling patches. These self-adhesive patches can make your whole head feel cool, sometimes for up to 12 hours. For a quick, easy way to cool down your whole body, grab a box and adhere one to your head, the back of your neck, or anyplace that feels out-of-control warm.
Have a Cup of Tea
Obviously, you don’t want to drink anything caffeinated before bed, but a cup of herbal tea might just provide you the relief you seek. A cup of chrysanthemum tea in particular might be just what you need to cool down at the end of the day. Chrysanthemum is used to lower body temperature in Chinese medicine, and you can find chrysanthemum tea in most Asian markets.
Sleep With Wet Hair
Water evaporating as it dries can have a cooling effect, so if you can handle the messily-tousled locks you’ll have the next day, consider going to sleep with wet hair and turn your head into a temporary air conditioner.
Adopt a Healthier Diet
The hypothalamus is part of your brain that regulates both your body temperature and your circadian cycle, and research published in the International Journal of Obesity and Molecular Metabolism found that foods high in fat or sugar cause inflammation of the hypothalamus. So nix the ice cream and get your brain back in shape for sleep.
Set Your Thermostat Right
If you and your partner frequently squabble over what temperature your room should be, let science decide once and for all. While there isn’t a single magic number that will make you sleep all night long, a range of 65-72 degrees is considered optimal.
Lower Your Thread Count
Another way you could be sabotaging yourself every night is by sleeping on sheets that are too luxurious. A high thread count might feel amazing, but it makes sheets less breathable. Opt for a lower thread count with a softer cotton fiber like percale or Egyptian cotton to keep your bed cool all night long.
Look to Buckwheat
Your sheets aren’t the only things that might be making your bed hot at night. If you find yourself frequently waking up in the middle of the night to flip your pillow over to the “cool side,” you should consider getting a buckwheat pillow. A buckwheat pillow doesn’t trap heat, thanks to all the air that circulates between the individual grains, meaning it stays cooler longer.
The “Egyptian Method” for keeping cool at night involves rinsing a towel or sheet in cold water and laying underneath it. Before you take it to bed, make sure you wring out as much of the water as possible or even run it through a spin cycle. The evaporation should help keep you cool.
Wash Your Sheets
If allergies are keeping you up at night, make the effort to wash your sheets more often. Your bed is, unfortunately, a pretty common resting place for pollen, especially during the warmer months, but frequent washing can help. And as tempting as it is when it’s nice out, don’t dry your bedding on the line, because a giant, wet piece of fabric hanging outside quickly becomes a pollen trap.
Use a Sleep Mask
The longer days of summer are a curse and a blessing. You’ve got more time to enjoy outdoors, but the sun can also wake you up earlier than it does in winter. If this is a problem for you, get a lightweight sleep mask. These inexpensive accessories can help block out the light, but a cotton or lightweight polyester one shouldn’t make you any warmer.
Try a Hammock
You might have noticed all the ways your bed makes it harder to sleep in hot weather. One option is to ditch the bed entirely and sleep in a hammock. A hammock gets significantly better air circulation than a mattress, plus the gentle rocking motion of a hammock creates “sleep spindles,” brief bursts of brain activity associated with peaceful sleep in noisy environments.
Unplug Before Bed
By now, you probably know that you shouldn’t be looking at screens before you go to bed because the blue light they emit can make it difficult to fall asleep. But in this case “unplug before bed” means actually unplugging all your stuff. If you’ve got a lot of appliances and gadgets plugged in during the night, they’re generating heat, even if they aren’t being used. For the sake of ease, plug everything into a power strip, and then unplug that before bed to help keep your room cooler.
Take Off Your Shoes
If you don’t already, get into the habit of taking off your shoes when you get home. Walking around in shoes you wear outside is a great way to track pollen all over your house, which can trigger allergies and make it harder to sleep through the night.
Get a Dehumidifier
The old saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” is partially true. The heat doesn’t help, but the humidity makes sleeping in the summer a lot worse. Ideally, your sleep environment will have a humidity level of about 30 percent, so if you live someplace muggy, you might want to invest in a dehumidifier to make your life better.
Cool Your Pillow
If you’ve already found the perfect pillow and don’t want to trade it in for a buckwheat-filled one, you can buy a pillow cooling pad. Simply stick it under your pillow to keep it cool all night.
Keep a Thermos by Your Bed
A thermos isn’t just great for keeping hot drinks hot. It can also keep cold drinks cold. Replace your usual bedside glass of water with a bedside thermos or travel mug of cold water, so if you wake up in the middle of the night you can have a sip of something cool and refreshing, instead of the awful experience of drinking warmish water when you’re half-asleep.
Consider a Cooling Spray
For an instant cool down, make your own cooling spray out of aloe, witch hazel, and peppermint oil. The aloe and witch hazel soothe your skin, while the peppermint oil makes your skin’s cold receptors kick into overdrive, sending cold signals to your brain that will make you feel cooler.
You probably weren’t planning on firing up the oven to make a casserole on a 90-degree night, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends also avoiding fatty or spicy foods before sleep as well. Consider it an excuse to explore the farmer’s market.
Use Targeted Cooling
To cool off quickly, run cold water or rub ice cubes on your pulse points. Blood vessels are close to the surface there, so a little bit of cooling action can have a lot of cooling effect. In addition to your wrists and your neck, don’t forget to do the tops of your feet for maximum coolness.
You might not realize it, but going to sleep dehydrated is a great way to get a lousy night’s rest. Being dehydrated can cause disruptive snoring and nocturnal leg cramps. And hotter temperatures outside mean you need to drink more to compensate for the water you’re losing from sweating. So, when the temperature starts to rise, make sure to drink extra water to avoid waking up parched with a charley horse.
Keep a little spray bottle on hand to mist yourself just before bed. The water evaporating on your skin will cool you off. Or you can go more high tech with one of those handheld fans with a bottle attached to it for even more cooling action.
Close Your Windows
If you have allergies, definitely keep your windows shut to keep pollen out so you can sleep at night instead of sniffling. And even if you don’t have allergies, keeping your windows shut and covered during the warmest part of the day is a great way to keep your room from getting too hot.
Check Your Screens
If you are being woken up in the night by mosquitos and other bugs, be sure to give your window screens a very thorough once over. Sometimes, little holes and tears escape obvious detection, but it doesn’t take much for something so small to make its way into your room and ruin your night.
Summer nights might be romantic, but summer bedtime is better spent alone. If you can swing it, having your partner sleep in a separate bed is a great way to cool things down. You eliminate the body heat generated by having another person in bed with you, plus you can sleep spread out, which means more air can touch your body and keep you cool.
Skip the Sangria
Summer is the time for sangria, mojitos, margaritas, mint juleps, and countless other amazing cocktails, but if you want to sleep through the night, it’s best to skip the alcohol entirely. Because of the heat, you’re already more likely to be dehydrated, which alcohol will make worse. On top of that, a study published in the Brain Research Bulletin found that alcohol incapacitates your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, making you feel warmer in already hot weather.
Chill Your Hot Water Bottle
Before you hit the hay on a hot night, fill your hot water bottle with water and stick it in the freezer. Once it’s cold, bring it to bed with you and keep it by your feet to keep your body and your bed cool for a long time.
Invest in Cooling Sleeves
The cooling sleeves runners wear on their arms and legs can keep you cool at night too. They’re inexpensive and designed to wick moisture and keep you cool for a long time.
Make a Dry Cold Pack
Want to cool down fast and sleep better? Take a sock and fill it with rice. Keep it stored in the freezer or fridge, and you can bring it to bed with you at night to rest on your eyes or the back of your neck to cool you down. For extra relaxation, throw in some lavender, too.
Invest in Desiccants
If you don’t want to shell out the dough for a dehumidifier, you can buy buckets of desiccants at hardware stores or dollar stores and use those to suck the moisture out of the air in your room. They will eventually stop working and need to be replaced, but it’s a cheap fix if humidity has got you up all night.
Do Some Yoga
Yoga is relaxing enough before bed that studios often have classes specifically for that purpose. If you’re practicing at home, you might want to avoid poses that generate a lot of heat and energy, like sun salutations and twists, and instead focus on gentle stretching of your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings, along with mindful breathing to relax your mind and body and prepare you for bed.
When you weigh more, your body generates more heat, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In addition to that, a thick layer of fat on your stomach acts as an insulator and keeps heat trapped in your body, which will also make you warmer. If you’re overweight and wake up from overheating in your sleep, you might want to consider losing a few pounds. And if you don’t know where to start, learn the 15 Most Dangerous Diet Fads You Should Avoid at All Costs.
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