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How to sleep well in a heatwave

The summer sun is welcomed by many, but these hot nights can be uncomfortable and leave lots of us with poor quality sleep. Temperatures have been high in the UK over the last few days and it’s hard to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

The optimal bedroom temperature is around 16-21 degrees centigrade. Your core body temperature drops as you drift off to sleep and your brain needs to be slightly cooler than your body, meaning that it's generally better to have a cooler room with a warm duvet. It's no wonder it's harder to fall asleep and stay asleep with these soaring temperatures.

Here are a few tips to help you sleep better when it’s hot inside:

  • Avoid napping

The hot weather makes us feel lethargic because we are expending more energy on regulating our internal temperature than usual. But, if you find your sleep is becoming disturbed in the night it is important to avoid napping during the day. Your sleep pressure (the feeling of sleepiness) builds during the day; for every hour that you stay awake, your sleep pressure increases. The only way to reduce your sleep pressure is to sleep, so by napping during the daytime you are reducing your sleep pressure, and this might contribute to a poor night’s sleep.

  • Keep your bedroom cool

Keep your curtains drawn throughout the day to stop the sun shining in and keep your bedroom as cool as possible. Open the windows overnight when the temperature outside has dropped. It can help to place a fan near the open window to circulate the fresh air, although fans don’t actually cool the air down.

  • Use thin sheets

Stick to thin bed sheets. Good quality cotton sheets allow your skin to breathe and keep you much cooler than synthetic materials like polyester. You might wake up in the night sweating and this is your body’s way of cooling you down. Heat evaporates better from wet skin and putting away your thick winter duvet will reduce the insulation around your body to a minimum and enable your body to cool down quicker.

  • Stay hydrated

Keep hydrated with plenty of water throughout the daytime. Generally, adults are recommended to drink 2.5 – 4.5 litres of water a day and this recommendation can increase during hot weather because we are sweating at a higher rate. Our bodies are built to slow the production of urine overnight but if you struggle with night-time awakenings and toilet visits, it can be beneficial to reduce your fluid consumption slightly 1-2 hours before bed.

Make sure to limit caffeine and alcohol before bed. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it encourages you to urinate more, but it also affects your sleep architecture so even if you’re falling asleep with no problems, the quality of your sleep won’t be as good as it could be. Alcohol is a relaxant, so many people find that they fall asleep more quickly after drinking alcohol but similarly to caffeine, it won’t allow you as good a quality sleep. Your sleep staging won’t be the same as it would without alcohol and so you may still wake up feeling more tired and groggy than usual.

  • Exercise in the mornings

Keeping a regular exercise routine is healthy for the mind and body but exercising in the mornings when it is cooler will be more comfortable than in the afternoons or evenings when it’s hot. Exercise temporarily increases your core body temperature so exercising in the evening, particularly if it’s an intense session, will make you feel hotter and it will be harder to sleep. Exercise in the mornings so that you ha

ve all day to cool off before you go to bed.

  • Lower your core body temperature

A cool shower just before bed can help to lower your core body temperature. Your body temperature drops just before you drift off to sleep, so cooling yourself down will help you to fall asleep quicker. Be careful that you don’t shock yourself with a freezing cold shower, as this might do the opposite and wake you up instead!

  • Stick to your usual routines

It’s easy to start doing things very differently when the weather is nice and it’s too hot to sleep. Of course, it’s lovely to be able to get out and enjoy the evening sun, but still allow yourself time to wind down as usual before bed. Our bodies thrive off of routine and mixing it up at a time that’s already difficult to fall asleep can be


  • Don’t stress

If you can’t sleep, don’t worry about it. Becoming overly worried about a lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of chronic insomnia. Often, people with insomnia are so anxious about their lack of sleep that it stimulates them and actually keeps them awake instead. A few nights of poor sleep is not the end of the world, make sure to get up in the morning and continue with your day as normal even if you haven’t slept well, as it will give you a better chance of sleeping properly the following night. If you do find yourself feeling more tired than usual and getting worried about your quality of sleep, you could try to relax by meditating, reading your favourite book, talking to friends

or taking some time out during the day for a nice walk. Remember that although you’re not sleeping well at the moment, you’re not alone and it won’t be long until the weather cools down again and you’re back to normal.


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