Expert advice to get some sleep during this absurd heat

Jul 15 2024, 7:00 pm

Have you been more tired during the day, having trouble problem-solving, or feeling unhappy this week? Well, it might be the heat impacting how well you sleep.

Daily Hive spoke with an expert for tips and tricks to help you get some rest while the heat is on.

Why does the heat impact sleep?

To start off, Wendy Hall, an emeritus professor at the UBC Nursing School, explains you might be noticing your sleeping habits change because the standard core temperature for your body may be shifting because of the warm environment.

“That core temperature needs to be in a certain range for us to fall asleep. So, for example, we don’t recommend high-impact physical activity right before bed because it raises your core body temperature, and that can take an hour or two to diminish, which then permits you to go to sleep,” she explains. “So if you think about it that way, when we’re in environments where the temperature is very high, it’s hard for us to cool our bodies down, thereby affecting our core body temperatures.”

Usually, our bodies have a slight increase in our core body temperature around 4 and 5 am, which signals our bodies to wake up for the day.

Hall says while we don’t wake up immediately when this happens, this signal does start the process.

“So if you look at core body temperature and you see that the environmental circumstances are contributing to it being elevated over the course of the night, then that’s very confusing to the body in terms of when the signal is to be prepared to wake up for the day.”

If you have a sleeping environment warmer than 27˚C or 28˚C, Hall says you’re not going to get a clear signal for your body about waking up for the day and you may find yourself having wakeful periods during the night which then affects quality sleep.

“We call that sleep fragmentation.”

Restful sleep tips

Open up the windows, draw the curtains

Temperatures tend to fall around 9 pm, so that’s a good time to open up your doors and windows to help with ventilation.

That way you can even get some of the cooler air coming in and “combine that with a fan.”

Take precautions if you are keeping the door or window open overnight so that you don’t have any unwelcome guests in your home, she suggests.

Avoid cat naps

It’s really tempting with the warm afternoon temperature, but Hall recommends avoiding drifting off to sleep during the day.

“These hotter daytime temperatures can make you feel very sleepy. And if you’re falling asleep during the day and having sort of these little cat naps all day long, you don’t build up your sleep pressure which is going to help for better quality of sleep at night.”

So best to wait it out.

Some out-of-the-box strategies”

Okay, let’s hear her out.

If do have a fan or air conditioner, this next suggestion might be a bonus to beat the heat, but if you don’t, it might be a great idea to cool down.

Run a pair of socks under some water, and throw them in the freezer earlier in the day. Then, when you’re ready to rest pull them out and slip them on.

Hall says this cools down your body when you’re falling asleep and “can be very effective.”

She even knows some people who do the same to their sheets.

Instead, they spray their bed’s top sheet, put that in the freezer, and lay it back out when it’s time for bed.

Shower in cool water

It may be a little uncomfortable to wash off in freezing cold water, but if you adjust it to a cooler temperature tolerable to you this will do wonders to lower your body temperature to an ideal zone.

Watch what you’re drinking

It’s not recommended in the first place to drink alcohol, sugary sodas, or caffeine before bed in the first place. So it’s definitely not going to help you sleep in the heat.

Plus, it will dehydrate you and, of course, keeping hydrated is really important.

However, she cautions that you don’t want to overdo it.

“You want to drink lots of water during the day but not necessarily lots right before bed because if you do that, then you’re gonna have to get up in the middle of the night. And it can be hard to fall back to sleep if the room temperature is very hot,” Hall explains.

Avoid melatonin 

If you’re thinking melatonin might be the easiest or most convenient solution — think again.

“We secrete melatonin to help us get drowsy and prepare for sleep,” she explains. “So it’s not the kind of thing that if you take it, it’s suddenly going to put you to sleep.”

Even if you’re frustrated with tossing and turning and adjusting that fan closer and closer, Hall still does not recommend reaching for melatonin.

“Then you just throw off your circadian rhythms in your body.”

And since it’s treated as a supplement instead of a drug, there’s less oversight in terms of melatonin production.

“So I’m not a big fan of melatonin I have to say.”

Warning signs

There are a couple of signs your body will signal that you need to pay special attention to.

When you are overheating, you may notice things, like your skin tingling, headaches, or even nausea. When you notice this, she says, “Try and cool yourself down ASAP as quickly as you can and make sure that you’re getting adequate salt intake.”

“When you’re sweating, you lose a lot of salt from your body. So you just want to make sure that you don’t lose so much salt because you get so overheated that you put your body out of balance because then you can end up having muscle cramps,” she explains.

With files from Amir Ali

This piece was published in August 2022 and has since been updated.

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