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Tips for getting a great night’s sleep in hot weather

25th May 2017

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Summer is now approaching and this means that high temperatures and great weather are hopefully just around the corner.

Whilst the high temperatures are welcomed it can be unpleasant during the night for those who are trying to get to sleep with a study by The Wool Room and University of Leeds showing that over a third of Brits attribute poor sleep to being too hot at night.

Older people can especially be affected and here, with the help of some sleep experts, are a number of tips that can help people enjoy great sleep during a hot and stuffy night.

Lukewarm showers

Older people with easy-access walk in showers should take lukewarm showers before bed, according to leading healthcare group Bupa.

The groups says, “Showers at a lukewarm temperature before bed time will help to cool the body down slowly. This will be more effective than a cold shower which temporarily cools the body but closes the pores meaning you sweat more.”

Cardio not Cappuccino

Dr Michael Breus, who is also known as the Sleep Doctor, says, “Exercise (specifically 20-30 minutes of aerobic) is one of the single best ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Research shows that those who have a regular exercise program get deeper sleep.”

Whilst exercise can help people relax and ultimately sleep better it is important to do it a few hours before bedtime.

Dr Breus adds, “If running relaxes you, then do it about 4 hours before bed.”

Listen to yourself

Lorna Damiani, who is a sleep expert and cognitive behavioural therapist at The Priory Hospital Roehampton, says, “Listen to things you are saying to yourself when you are struggling to sleep. We all worry, but bed is not the place for that.

“Attend to those worries with pen and paper in the morning. Get out of bed if you are unable to sleep, and return when your body tells you it wants rest.”

Keep hydrated

Dr Adam Simon at Push Doctor says that staying hydrated is also vital for older people looking to get a good night’s sleep.

He says, “Staying hydrated is always important in hot weather and this doesn’t stop when you’re asleep. Some people have a small glass of water before turning in, while others keep one by the bed to sip if needed. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it, or you’ll only have to get up in the night.”

Don’t fill your mind with ‘I must sleep thoughts’

A lot of people have been there thinking that they must go to sleep as they have an early start or because it is getting late, but this can actually have a negative effect.

The Priory Hospital Roehampton’s Lorna Damiani adds, “Falling asleep happens unconsciously. Resolve to rest rather than torment yourself with 'I must sleep' thoughts.”

Replace pillows

Dr Michael Breus also says that pillows need to be replaced on a regular basis to help people get a good night’s sleep.

He adds, “Your pillow should be replaced every year. If it has just “broken in” what is to keep it from continuing to break! Choose a pillow based on what side you sleep on, whether you have back pain, and your allergies!”

Keep the curtains closed

Dr Steve Iley, Medical Director for Bupa UK says that another tip older people should follow to help them sleep during a spell of hot weather is to keep the curtains closed during the day.

He says, “Air temperature is not the only factor which can contribute to a warmer environment. Heat radiating off the wall can contribute to the temperature of a room. You can reduce radiant heat by keeping the curtains closed while you’re out, so that your walls are kept cool.”

Buy a fan or open a window during the night

A pedestal or desk fan is a great way to reduce the stuffiness of a bedroom and people that are concerned about the noise a fan can produce, can look into quieter fans or alternatively ear plugs.

The Push Doctor’s Dr Adam Simon also recommends using an electric fan, “If it’s too hot to sleep, you’ll be looking for ways to get some cool air circulating around the room.

“An electric fan is an effective option, but this can be expensive. You can open a window in the evening to let the cool air in, but you should only do this if it’s safe and won’t put your home’s security at risk.”

Stick to a routine

With the summer nights being lighter it is easy for someone to change their daily habits by sleeping or eating and drinking later.

Dr Steve Iley from Bupa says that this is a bad idea. He says, “Keeping a routine is really important for the body as any sudden changes can disturb sleep patterns.

“Our bodies can come out of sync when our routines are disrupted. It’s therefore important to stick to a routine as much as possible to insure a good night’s sleep.”

Use cotton bedding

Synthetic material is known to retain heat, whilst cotton is breathable and is therefore cooler. Experts say that by purchasing cotton it can help ensure older people sleep better during hot summer nights.

Dr Steve Iley says, “Loose fabrics like cotton help the skin to breathe during the night. The same goes for bed sheets – try cotton instead of Nylon as it absorbs sweat better and helps to regulate our metabolic heat.”

Dr Adam Simon from Push Doctor says that wearing cotton pyjamas can also really help people sleep during the night.

He adds, “What you wear can also have an impact. Cotton pyjamas are your best bet, as they’ll help absorb sweat and keep cooler air close to your body.”

Go for an assessment

There are many types of common and complex sleep disorders, from sleep apnoea to snoring, and sufferers can benefit from an assessment. People who have only had trouble sleeping more recently may also benefit from an assessment.

That’s why going for an appointment at sleep experts such as the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Specialist Care unit can really help.

Their consultants can confirm diagnosis and review the treatment options that are available to the sufferer, which could include a sleep study to better understand a person’s sleeping pattern.

Don’t go to bed on an empty stomach

Dr Michael Breus, who has recently written a book called The Power of When, also says that whilst it is best to avoid going to bed after just eating a large meal, people shouldn’t go to bed on an empty stomach.

He says, “Don't go to bed hungry. Cereal and milk, apple pie a la mode, even cheese cake can be good (not an entire cheesecake).

“A study showed that high Glycemic index foods eaten 4 hours before bed can help you get to sleep. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which has been shown in research to help people go to sleep.”

Bothersome bed partners

It is quite common for people to let their pets sleep in the same bed, but this is a bad idea, according to the Sleep Doctor’s Michael Breus.

He says, “Pets and snoring bed mates can all disrupt sleep, if you have any or all, make a new set of rules: Silence is golden. Consider earplugs (Noise Level rated at 32 or below so you can still hear the fire alarm) or a sound machine.”

Image Credit: Sarah Chambers.