Hot Summer Nights

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We all know that sleep is one of the most important things we do for our health and well-being. From weight gain to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a lack of sleep can have serious consequences.

Summer’s high temperatures don’t help you get the rest you need. The summer of 2015 was the hottest on record, meaning many more people had to confront the challenge of sleeping in the heat.

But there are solutions—even without air-conditioning. Aside from cultivating good sleep habits, drink plenty of water throughout the day so you’ll be hydrated before going to sleep. Dehydration presents dangers to your health, and being well hydrated makes it easier for your body to cool itself down.

The National Sleep Foundation offers some tips on how to stay a little bit cooler this summer and get a lot more rest.

Your Bedroom
It’s a little easier to keep a room from getting hot than to cool it off once it’s already overheated. So do what you can to keep your bedroom cool:

  • Make sure windows are covered—blinds or heavy drapes will keep out the sun. Close them in the morning and don’t open them until the evening, when temperatures are cooler.
  • Keep your windows closed during the hottest part of the day.
  • Get a fan. Some people position a tray of ice in front of the fan. Others create a cross-breeze by placing a box fan in one window so it’s blowing air out, and then opening a second window in another part of the home.
  • Heat rises. Consider making a temporary sleeping space in your basement if you have one or on the ground floor.

Pajamas and Bedding
Needless to say, summer is not the time for flannel sheets, no matter how cozy they are. Cotton sheets stay coolest. Your nightclothes (if any) should be light. People who may sweat more in hot weather—like those who have hot flashes or night sweats—may want to consider sleeping clothes made of materials that wick moisture away from the body.

What to Do Before Bed

  • Shower. Even if you’re typically a person who showers in the morning, taking a cool or warm shower before retiring can help you fall asleep quicker.
  • Freezer. Experiment with ways to cool down—freeze a damp washcloth and use it to dab your wrists and temples; rub ice or freezer packs on your sheets before getting in bed; or try freezing your pajamas before putting them on.

Emergency Measures
Many cities open cooling centers in air-conditioned buildings during heat waves. Find out where the nearest one is, especially if your health is endangered during hot spells. If your city doesn’t have a cooling center, consider asking a friend or relative with air-conditioning whether you can stay a few nights if necessary.

Sleeping outside is a possibility, but be careful to do so in a secure area and take steps to protect yourself from insects.

Hopefully temperatures during 2016 will not be as extreme as those in 2015, but putting some thought into your sleep will help you feel better when it gets too darn hot.

Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.

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