Whether you’re sweating between the sheets at home or away, these tips, tricks and techniques will increase your chances of getting some restful, restorative shut eye. Read on to cool off…
What with this summer’s recurrent heatwaves, the warmer months, while conducive to sangria soaked evenings and long and lazy BBQs, can cumulatively rob us of sleep. As Brits, we’re generally not accustomed to handling heat, and often lack the cooling infrastructure of our continental cousins (think thick stone walls and shutters as standard) to create comfortable living and sleeping environments. Add to that the fact that Google Trends analysis reveals that the search query ‘how to get more deep sleep’ has risen by 180 per cent in the past year alone, and it's clear we're not getting the R&R we need- the planet is getting hotter, and we’re scraping by on less sleep than ever. Here are some strategies for nodding off in the heat and waking up energised rather than exhausted.
1. Cool your room
Obvious, but fundamental. The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 15ºC to 20ºC, but with nighttime temperatures exceeding that in the past few months, and houses, particularly high rise flats, holding onto the day’s warmth, the vibe is more stifling than soothingly balmy. Short of turning to air con, which is both expensive and potentially contributing to global warming in the first place, invest in thick curtains or blackout blinds and keep them closed during the day to prevent the heat of the sun turning your bedroom into a stove. Keep windows closed too- this seems counterintuitive, but it will prevent hot air from hanging around. When cooler air comes through in the evening (one can dream), crack open windows then and turn on a fan. Speaking of which…
2. Break the ice
Preferably under your fan- a tray of ice cubes in the firing line of your fan will create a fresher breeze. Ditto filling a hot water bottle or sealed pouch with ice (or filling it with water and putting it in the freezer) and applying to hotspots before bed.
3. Avoid simple memory foam
Cushy as it may be, memory foam insulates the body, making you feel even more sweltering. You needn’t give up the support and sleeping on a cloud feel, however, as Simba’s Hybrid® Mattress uses a special comfort top layer called Simbatex, designed to keep you cooler than regular memory foam. Thanks to a clever open cell structure to improve airflow, it’ll help keep you chilled. Plus you get all the support of individually responsive springs and another memory foam layer further down for comfort without the heat trap. In short: the best of all worlds.
4. Shower in the evening
Not only will washing at nighttime rinse away the sweat, SPF and general grime of a clammy day, but a lukewarm shower or bath will help to promote sleep, as it signals our body to subsequently cool off afterwards, mimicking the natural lowering of body temperature in the evening that’s in line with our circadian rhythms . Just don’t be tempted to create an at-home plunge pool- water that’s too cold will overstimulate your senses and encourage your body to retain heat rather than cool down.
5. Chill your skincare
Switch to light, refreshing gel moisturisers and keep them in the fridge for end of day ‘ahhh’ feels. Refrigerate body lotions too and consider using a cooling aftersun in place of your regular body cream, even if you’ve been in the office rather than on the Algarve. You’ll be grateful for a layer of glacial, anti-inflammatory aloe vera at the tail end of a sticky commute.
6. Spritz yourself to sleep
Not with Aperol, but good old H2O. My partner keeps a plant mister on his bedside table and goes in for regular dousings, but for a slightly more sophisticated and hydrating take, keep a face spritz in the fridge to both moisturise and cool off at regular intervals. Your skin will be smoother, and your sleep should be sounder.
7. Cotton on to breezy bedwear
Synthetic materials can make for a sultry evening as they preserve heat. Opt for soft, thin, loose and breathable cotton nightwear instead. Slinky silk sheets are out too…
8. Get clever bedding
Dr Irshaad Ebrahim , Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Medical Director at The London Sleep Centre, recommends switching to natural fibres for a more airy night under the sheets:
“Breathable bedding is best, so opt for linen or bamboo, or cotton for a more affordable option. You could even pop them in the freezer before putting them on the bed for a burst of coolness. There is specialist bedding available which you may like to consider, such as buckwheat or water-filled pillows which help transfer heat away from the body. And, as a last resort, damp towels can provide some temporary relief for a few hours when wrapped around the feet, but it’s best to avoid this if your room is not well ventilated or suffers with damp.”
Duvet wise, go low tog, or consider a temperature regulating all season option such as Simba Hybrid® Duvet with Outlast® , from £195. The ‘phase change’ fabric responds to your body temperature, absorbing heat when it’s warm to cool you down and releasing heat if your temperature drops. It’s Space Certified technology, and it’s pretty cool. The duvet casing also features naturally breathable 300 thread cotton count (that’s high to you and I) so it’s built to maximise airflow - plus the stitched up ‘pockets’ means that the feather and down fill never goes lumpy.
9. Out like a light
Don’t simply switch off all the lights as your head hits the pillow- gradually decrease your exposure to light in the hours leading up to bedtime. This can be trickier during the summer months, but dimmers can help, and Dr Ebrahim advocates blocking out light strategically to encourage you to produce sleep inducing hormones such as melatonin at the right times:
“Light levels help us to regulate our sleeping patterns, so it’s important that your sleeping environment is dark. The sun rises earlier in the summer, so this can cause us to wake up well before the alarm goes off, depriving us of precious hours of sleep. A good quality lined curtain or blackout blind can help to better control morning light into the bedroom, as well as reduce nighttime light pollution from street lights, flashy advertising and car headlamps. If that’s not an option for you, then a well-fitting eye mask is a good alternative. You could even pop it in the fridge just before bedtime for a soothing effect on hot heavy eyelids.”
10. Turn off the tech
Just as you should ideally dodge bright light in the approach to bed, so blue light emitted by devices should be limited, not to mention the ‘always on’ headrush that constant news streams and buzzing notifications can bring. Try establishing a digital curfew if you’re feeling disciplined- it will stop constant scrolling becoming a habit and have you naturally turning to books, conversation and other ye olde hobbies that encourage us to relax rather than making us feel wired. This isn’t summer specific of course, but it’s all too enticing to pick up our phones when the heat’s getting in the way of sleep. Pick up a novel or listen to a podcast or guided meditation instead, and incidentally don’t sweat it if sleep isn’t happening- stress only inhibits sleep further, and a bit of savasana style rest will still benefit body and mind, even if you don’t clock up as much sleep as you’d like.
11. Move in moderation
A punishing HIIT session in the hours before sleep isn’t advisable, as stress hormone (cortisol) spikes could leave you tossing and turning when you do head to bed. A less energetic approach is unlikely to provoke post-exercise insomnia, and some low-impact, mindful exercise could well help you to wind down. Try a yoga sequence, a walk, pilates or a gentle swim- the stress relief element could help to foster peaceful sleep, while gently warming the body without overheating it will prompt a resultant cooling response that lulls your body into a more restful state- particularly if you finish off light exercise with a tepid shower.
12. Eat to combat the heat
A heavy meal before bed rarely leads to a totally tranquil night’s sleep, but rich eats too close to bedtime in the heat are likely to make you feel even warmer, as Dr Ebrahim highlights:
“With the sun setting as late as 10pm in the UK at the height of the summer it can be tempting to stay up and eat later. However, our bodies generate heat as they digest food and it can feel uncomfortable to sleep on a full stomach. Try switching to lighter meals in the evenings which need less energy to digest, such opting for salad niçoise, rather than carb-heavy carbonara.”
Limit caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime, as both can cause your body temperature to spike, not to mention make your mind whir, and stay well hydrated in the evening and during the day as summer sweating means you’ll be losing more water.
13. Pick up a pair of earplugs
While white noise is said to encourage sleep , a symphony of honking cars or screeching cats through an open window will not, and some fans can approach ‘aircraft take off’ levels of noise rather than a low hum. In which situation, ear plugs are your friend in the summer months. Plug in, nod off.
This feature was written in partnership with Simba