Summer brings so many good things with it – birdsong, sunshine, hot weather, blooming flowers and lovely long days. However, lovely as the days may be, hot summer nights can seem terribly long if you can’t get off to sleep.
There are good reasons why we need sleep – around eight hours (more or less) is ideal. Enough sleep helps keep us healthy, by keeping our immune system working well. It also helps prevent diabetes, weight gain, mood disorders and increased blood pressure.
If hot summer nights are keeping you awake at night, a few changes to your normal bedtime routine should help you back to sleep.
Ten reasons to get a good night's sleep
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In the heat of the night
Our overall climate is growing hotter, so it pays to be prepared for higher temperatures interfering with our peaceful nights.
The ideal bed-time temperature for most people is around 16-18 degrees°C (60-65 degrees°F). This varies from person to person, but somewhere around this temperature is ideal for helping us to get off to sleep fairly quickly.
Unless you have air conditioning, it isn’t always possible to guarantee this steady temperature in your bedroom. In fact, when summer temperatures are really high, it can seem as though your bedroom has turned into a sauna.
How to keep your house cool during hot weather
Tips to lower the night-time temperature at home
First of all, be prepared – check the local weather forecast for your area. If it’s going to be a hot day, pull your curtains and/or blinds to block out the sunlight. Doing this in the morning should help to keep the temperatures down.
Have a room thermometer handy. If the evening temperature is higher in your bedroom than it is outside, open the curtains/blinds and windows, to let heat out. You could try opening the windows, and bedroom doors at the back and front of the house, to see if this creates a through-draft.
However, if it is cooler indoors than outside, keep your windows closed to stop warm air coming in. If you don’t already have one, buy or borrow an electric fan to help keep the temperature down and to provide you with a cool breeze. This should lower the temperature, may help dry you if you become hot and sweaty, and should help you get off to sleep.
If you live in a two-storey building, it’s likely to be cooler downstairs, because heat rises. If you can, make yourself a temporary bed in the coolest room downstairs.
If that isn’t possible, and it looks like it’s going to be a really hot night, you could try putting your bed sheets, pillowcases and your (preferably cotton) night clothes in your fridge to cool them down. Having a tepid shower before you go to bed should help to cool you down too.
Sleep: strategies for a better night's sleep
Hayfever and allergic rhinitis
Warm, dry days – and nights – can be miserable if you have hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Taking your usual allergy medication should help, but trying to get to sleep when you have puffy eyes, a bunged-up nose, and are generally feeling awful, can be difficult
You can help reduce the misery by taking a few sensible precautions.
- Keep an eye on the daily pollen forecasts, and try to stay indoors when you know the pollen count is going to be high.
- Take your regular allergy medication.
- Put some petroleum jelly, Vaseline, or an allergen barrier balm round both nostrils. This may help prevent pollen etc. getting into your body.
- Don’t hang your clothes out to dry on days when there is a high pollen count.
- Keep your windows closed, especially in the mornings and evenings, to stop pollen getting into your home.
- When you do go out, wear wrap-around sunglasses and a hat with a brim, to help keep pollen away from your eyes and nose.
(For more information on hay fever and allergic rhinitis go to the Allergy UK website.)
Natural ways to cope with hay fever
How to make your home more allergy-friendly
Eating and drinking
What we eat and drink, especially in the evening, can affect our sleep. Add this to high temperatures, and you could be in for a sleepless night if you make the wrong food choices.
- Don’t eat large meals within a few hours of going to bed. Your body will take time to digest the food, and you may find yourself coping with indigestion as well as a hot, sticky night.
- It’s better to eat a light meal in the early evening, and have a snack later if you’re still hungry. Milk, bananas and yogurt all contain tryptophan (an amino acid), which is known to help you sleep.
- Coffee is well known for disturbing our sleep. Help yourself to a cup of coffee close to your normal bedtime and you could be in for a restless, sleepless night.
- The same goes for wine and other alcoholic drinks. Although they may make you feel sleepy, that effect doesn’t last all night, and you can wake up feeling thirsty or hung-over.
- When it’s hot outside and indoors, you need plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Fill a jug of cold water to have by your bed at night, and drink plenty of water during the day.
- Drinking plenty of water won’t just stop you feeling thirsty, it’s probably the best way to avoid dehydration, and the unpleasant symptoms that come with it. These can include feeling tired and dizzy, having a headache, and feeling exhausted.
- If you are severely dehydrated your symptoms – confusion, more serious dizziness, having a weak pulse, and even seizures – can be confused with those of dementia.
- If the heat is causing you (or someone you know) severe symptoms, you should see a doctor. This is especially important if you have existing health conditions, and/or are feeling faint or confused.
- In very hot weather, if you haven’t been able to drink enough, you may become severely dehydrated. If this is the case you may need hospital treatment.
What to eat for a better night's sleep
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