Few activities are more miserable than trying to get to sleep during a heat wave when you have no air conditioning. Although the situation is never ideal, sometimes it still happens to us, especially if you travel.
If you’re trying to get some sleep under these conditions, you’ll need to be smart about how you approach it.
Why Temperature Matters for Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the suggested bedroom temperature for optimal sleeping conditions is somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
The human body is designed to cool down at night. During the normal circadian rhythm of the average human being, sleep occurs when our core temperature begins to drop.
“A cooler core body temperature is associated with sleep. Conversely, a warmer core temperature is energizing,” Tuck.com explains.
“Think about how awake you feel during exercising, and it starts to make sense. Human performance scientists have found a higher internal body temperature correlates with more alertness, better memory, and improved reaction times.”
Thus, it makes sense that a cool room enhances sleep, while a room with an overly warm ambient temperature will make it difficult to fall asleep and stay that way.
Five Tips for Sleeping in Hot Temperatures
During certain times of the year — such as late fall and early spring — it’s not hard to achieve that comfortable range of 60 to 67 degrees. But what do you do in the dog days of summer if you lack air conditioning?
Nothing can replace a well-functioning AC system, but there are helpful steps you can take when you find yourself without this modern luxury. Here’s what we suggest:
- Prevent Excessive Heat Build-Up --
When there’s no functioning air conditioning system in your home,
you have to think ahead. The worst thing you can do is allow heat to build
throughout the day.
This oversight will leave you with a hot room in which you have to fight to fall asleep. During the daytime, keep window treatments closed … especially during peak sunlight hours. This will keep unwanted heat at bay.
You should also keep all unnecessary lights off and unplug any appliances — such as computers and TVs — unplugged. Even if they’re not turned on and in use, these items generate heat.
As soon as the sun goes down, it’s recommended that you open your windows and run a fan to circulate the air. This will encourage heat to escape so it can be replaced with slightly cooler air.
- Employ a Smart Pre-Bedtime Routine --
Everyone needs a good pre-bedtime routine. Not only does this
train your brain to fall asleep, but it can also help you combat hot
temperatures by cooling your body. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a cool or lukewarm bath or shower right before bed. This will slightly cool your skin’s temperature and put your body more at ease.
- If you don’t take a bath or shower, try wetting your face and arms with a cool, damp rag. You can also use a spray bottle filled with water.
- More heat escapes through our feet and head than any other parts of the body. By soaking your feet in cold water for 10 minutes, you can create a cooling effect. Wetting your hair is another solid option.
- Try applying an ice pack to your armpits and/or groin area for short periods of time. Blood flows closest to the surface of our skin in these regions, which makes them excellent for cooling the body.
Additionally, you’ll want to shed as much clothing as you can. Don’t strip off everything, however.
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping naked could actually make you warmer. It’s better to strip down to loose, cool clothing … such as boxer shorts and/or a light T-shirt.
- Choose the Correct Pillow and Mattress --
Certain mattress materials absorb more body heat than others.
This can amplify the general conditions and make your sleep warmer.
In addition to affecting your ability to fall and stay asleep, this can prevent deep REM sleep from occurring. Other mattress materials deflect body heat and promote better air circulation to create a cooler surface that makes it easier to rest comfortably.
Hybrid mattresses seem to be the most comfortable in hot environments. Not only do they provide good support and motion isolation, but they’re also more breathable. Combine one of these with a cooling pillow, and you should feel better.
- Use the Egyptian Method --
Here’s how the Egyptian method works: Wet a sheet or bath towel
that’s large enough to cover your entire body. Wring it out and/or run it
through a quick spin cycle in the washing machine. You want it to be damp, but
not dripping wet.
Next, place a dry sheet on the bed underneath your body and use the wet sheet as your top blanket. Doing this will keep you surprisingly cool.
- Implement a Correct Fan Setup --
On a hot night, fans can be your best friend or worst enemy. It
depends on how you use them.
A ceiling fan, for example, should be set to rotate counterclockwise. This will push cool hair down. When they run clockwise, this circulates warm air and can actually elevate the room temperature.
You can also go old school and use a box-fan-and-ice setup to create your own rudimentary form of air conditioning. Here’s how it works: Set a box fan by an open window (assuming the outside temperature is cooler than the indoors).
Next, set a pan containing ice and cold water in front of it. The fan will suck air from outside, blow it over the ice, and thereby disperse cooler air into the room.
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