While there's much to be said for having a decent summer at last, one of the first casualties of hot weather is a decent night's sleep. Here are some top tips to help you sleep soundly as temperatures soar.
We're all aware of the importance of a good night's sleep. Sleep helps our bodies and our minds to recharge and repair themselves, and good sleep has been identified as a vital component of optimal mental and physical health. But as the temperatures soar, most of us find it increasingly difficult to get the deep, uninterrupted sleep that we crave. Why is that and what can we do about it?
Why is it so hard to sleep when it's hot?
There are good reasons why it's hard to sleep in hot weather, so don't beat yourself up if you're a summer insomniac (beating yourself up is likely to make it even harder to fall asleep anyway)! Dropping off to sleep involves a whole number of complex mechanisms operating across your body. One of these is body temperature. A mild drop in temperature induces sleep, a bit like turning down the thermostat to conserve energy overnight. Without that drop in temperature, it's very hard to fall asleep in the first place.
Then, once you are asleep, you eventually enter the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep. This is when dreaming happens and when experts believe a lot of the restorative work of sleep takes place. It's quite an odd state to be in: you lose all muscle tone (which stops you acting out your dreams) and internal temperature regulation. Your body temperature gradually becomes whatever the temperature is outside. And when that gets too hot for comfort, you wake up.
So how hot is too hot for falling asleep? For initial dropping off, anything above 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) is pretty uncomfortable, and most people find it easier to get to sleep if the temperature is below 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). Humidity compounds the problem, as sweat doesn't evaporate from your skin so easily to cool it down.
So sleeping well in hot weather is all about cooling down your surroundings and yourself as best you can. Here's how.
Cooling down your bedroom
For most of us in this country, air conditioning is impractical or unnecessarily expensive. There are also some dubious potential side effects of air conditioning, from increasing your chances of catching summer colds to mild respiratory problems if the air becomes excessively dry, and of course it also costs money and energy to run. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to keep your home, and particularly your bedroom, cool.
Cooling down your bed
If you've done all you can to cool down your bedroom but it's not helping, consider focusing your efforts on your bed:
Cooling down your body
The ultimate aim of all of these efforts to cool down your home and bedroom is to cool down your body. Here are some more things you can specifically to keep your body cool: