Hot Days, Sleepless Nights

“Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature for a good night’s sleep,” is the advice I read most often in guides on how to sleep better. Around 18℃ is optimal. But what if you are in the middle of one of the UK’s often brief, but hellishly hot, summers? How do you keep cool when your bedroom is a furnace?

Here are 12 top tips from Louise Mumford, author of Sleepless!

An insomniac’s guide to staying cool at night

  1. Cotton. I cannot fully express my love for this material. Sure, you can buy fancy sweat-wicking materials if you wish, but plain, basic cotton does the job just as well – breathable, cool, comfortable. Use it everywhere: pyjamas, duvet covers and sheets, but not your pillow. Get a silk cover for that, a naturally cooler feeling material that also apparently helps reduce the wrinkles (caused by lack of sleep!)
  2. Get rid of the duvet. If you cannot sleep without something covering you then consider a summer weight duvet or simply a cotton sheet. Some people swear by sleeping completely nude to keep cool – saves on pyjama washing, I guess…
  3. Prepare. In the morning, do everything you can to make your bedroom stay cool. Close the curtains to keep out direct sunlight and keep a window open to give a bit of air flow. Cross ventilation is key here. If you have them, open windows directly across from each other so air can enter and escape easily. Once night falls, open the bedroom windows wide and pull back the curtains to get as much cooler air in before bedtime… and maybe some moths…
  4. Get a fan. You might be worried that the whirring noise will keep you awake but there are lots of super quiet fans on the market now. Also there is evidence that white noise can be soothing and block out any sudden changes that might wake you up, like the neighbour’s dog barking or a car alarm on the street. Put a tray with ice cubes in front of the fan for even cooler air, though do remember that the tray is there the next morning. It will be a bit of a shock to put your foot in cold water as you stumble to the bathroom.
  5. Have a lukewarm bath or shower before bed, not too hot, not too cold. Your neck and wrists contain pulse points which can help cool down your blood and reduce your overall temperature. As you get cooler, your body produces more melatonin which, in turn, makes you sleepy.
  6. Sleep alone. If you have one, kick your partner out of bed because sleeping with another person increases your body heat. Bonus if your partner snores – you get a quiet night too! If you have no spare bed then strictly no snuggling. Stay away from your partner and do not share that body heat. If you have a big enough bed, then consider the starfish sleeping position with your limbs stretched away from your body to keep skin cool.
  7. Sleep on a lower level, if you have one. Heat rises, so consider sleeping on the ground floor for a few nights if your bedroom is unbearably stuffy. And if you live in a flat or bungalow then consider putting your mattress on the floor where the colder air lurks.
  8. Freeze. Freeze anything and everything you can think of: your sheets before you put them on your bed, your socks to put on before you sleep, a washcloth to have by the bed to put on your neck or forehead when you wake up sweating. Warning: there may not be any room in your freezer for actual food with all of this stuff taking up space. Also, you may get a slightly damp bed…
  9. Use a hot water bottle. Not with hot water, though – are you crazy? No, fill it with ice-cold water and use it when you wake up over-heated during the night.
  10. Exercise earlier. Do not do any intensive, sweaty exercise in the couple of hours before bed as this raises your temperature and it takes a long time for your body to regulate it. If you go to bed at 10pm then finish up your exercise at around 7 p.m. if possible.
  11. Get a few plants. As well as looking pretty, they can keep indoor spaces cooler as they consume hot air for natural processes and, when it is warm, they often release excess water into the air from their leaves, cooling themselves and the surrounding environment. Best ones to go for are rubber plants and palms.
  12. If you wake up unbearably hot in the middle of the night consider nipping outside for a bit of fresh, cool air and stay outside until you feel a bit chilly. Please remember to wear pyjamas for this so you don’t scare the neighbours!

And if none of these are doing the trick, you might as well grab yourself a copy of Louise Mumford’s gripping debut and put those sleepless nights to good use… Sleepless is out now!

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