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 make it any easier to you get the rest you need. The year 2016 was the hottest on record, meaning many more people had to confront the challenge of sleeping in the heat.
But there are solutions—even if you don’t have 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 helps your body 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.
Keep Your Bedroom Cool
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.
Fine-Tune Pajamas and Bedding
Needless to say, summer is not the time for flannel sheets, no matter how comfy 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—might want to choose sleeping clothes made of materials that wick moisture away from the body.
What to Do Before Bed
- Shower. Even if you typically shower in the morning, taking a cool or warm shower before retiring can help you fall asleep quicker.
- Freeze things! 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.
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.
Extreme heat events and generally hot summers seem to be here to stay, 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.