Even the best sleepers can hit a wall when it comes to getting shuteye in the summer. While for many, it’s easy to keep the bedroom at ideal sleeping temps simply by flicking on the air conditioner, for those who don’t have access to A/C or are trying to minimize their carbon footprint, sleep doesn’t have to be so elusive, even when the temperatures start to rise. A little science, ingenuity and common sense can make a world of difference in the quality of your summer sleep.
A first step to combating nighttime heat is to try to keep out as much daytime heat as possible. Keep the bedroom curtains or blinds closed; sometimes it even makes sense to keep the windows closed, especially during the hottest part of the day. If possible, switch to insulated curtains. Not only will they keep your room cooler by blocking heat, they will also keep it warmer in the winter – not to mention that most insulated curtains are also great at blocking any ambient light, resulting in a darker room for sleeping.
Establishing a cross breeze will help to wick moisture off of your body. This works best if you have windows on opposite sides of the room, opening both windows so that the breeze flows through one and out the other. To enhance the cross breeze effect, you can position a fan in one window. When the air temperature dips outside, say in the evening, turn the fan to exhaust – it will suck in cooler air from the open window, venting out the hot air of the room. If you don’t have opposing windows, try placing two fans at opposite ends of the bed for an artificial, but no less pleasing cross breeze. Only have one fan? No worries! Aim it at the bed with a bowl of ice in the path of the breeze. The ice will cool the air as it rushes over, giving you a refreshing, cool gust. If your primary cooling device is a ceiling fan, be sure that the blades are going in the right direction, pushing the air down.
You’ll also want to pay attention to what you’re putting on your bed. Choose lightweight, natural bedding like 100% cotton percale, batiste or voile that will allow for optimum breathability. Natural linen is also a good option for summer; it’s highly absorbent, wicking moisture away from your body. Of course, there are also oodles of performance materials out there that use fabric technology to help you sleep cooler. You’ll want to avoid super high thread counts as the higher the thread count, the more tightly packed together the fibers, decreasing breathability. For covers – if you opt for any at all – go for open weave blankets that will be better at venting body heat, keeping your feet outside the covers to allow your body to better regulate its temperature.
Preparing your body for summer sleep is just as important as creating a summer sleep sanctuary. Keep exercise, alcohol and heavy food to at least three hours before turning in. While exercise earlier in the day is definitely beneficial to sleep regardless of the season, being active too close to bedtime can keep your body stimulated and too warm to calm down. And while alcohol might make you drowsy, it’ll likely mess with the quality of sleep you’ll be getting, disrupting your deep sleep periods. Likewise heavy meals that are rich in protein will cause your body to work overtime, creating metabolic heat and raising your internal temperature.
Try taking a warm shower or bath prior to going to bed; the moisture on your body acts like sweat – as it evaporates, it has a cooling effect. While some people think sleeping in the nude is what summers were made for, you might want to rethink that. Wearing light, breathable pajamas might actually be more comfortable than sleeping naked as the fabric will help move moisture away from the body. For super hot nights, you could try spritzing your pjs with water, or dampening your sheets ever so slightly, to take even greater advantage of the evaporation process.
And don’t forget about the magic residing in your freezer – ice! Freezing a plastic bottle of water (but only fill it about two-thirds full so the water has space to expand as it freezes) and wrapping it in a light cloth and hugging it like a teddy bear or placing it beneath your pillow can give you a reverse heating bottle effect. Similarly, chilling a rice pack (or a clean sock filled with plain, old rice & tossed in the freezer for a couple of hours) and putting it on pulse points such as your wrists, neck and temples can help to lower your body temp, sending you off to La La Land feeling cooler and more refreshed.
By keeping these tips in your proverbial back pocket, when the heat hits, you’ll be ready to hit back and sink into a serenely satisfying summertime slumber.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on June 29, 2017
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