The UK is ready for a heat wave, and while the opportunity to shed a few layers and hit the park with a popsicle is welcome, it’s not all that much fun when it comes to drop off at night. Sleeping during a heat wave is rarely easy – especially if you have a window that gets the afternoon sun and turns your bedroom into an oven – but there are a few tricks to use that can help.
An essential thing to do first is to make sure your bed setup is correct. If you’re still sweating under a winter duvet, now’s the time to upgrade to a lighter duvet (our best duvet guide includes options that let you combine different weights for a duvet that will last you all year round) . . Likewise, if you have a mattress that retains heat – as some cheaper or older memory foam mattresses may have a bad habit of doing – head over to our best mattress guide to find alternatives that allow for better temperature regulation.
Assuming your bed setup is as heat wave friendly as possible, there are other things you can do to help manage the heat during the night. Here’s exactly how to sleep when it’s hot.
1. Close your windows during the day
Prepare your bedroom by cooling it down as much as possible before going to bed. Although you can open windows elsewhere in the house, it can be helpful to keep your bedroom windows closed and the curtains drawn during the day to keep warm air out. Then, when night falls and the outside temperature drops, open your windows to enjoy that cool breeze. (Or, if breezes are rare, create your own by investing in one of the best fans around.)
It’s probably best to keep your curtains drawn, so your bedroom is dark when you’re trying to go to bed and you avoid a rude awakening when the sun comes up. “Make sure your bedroom can be completely dark when you’re trying to sleep,” advises Dr. Rebecca Robbins, sleep scientist and in-house expert at Savoir Beds. (opens in a new tab)). “While bright light wakes us up, darkness is what allows melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, to secrete into the brain.”
2. Get comfortable before bed (no, really)
This next tip is a little counterintuitive: it helps to warm up a bit while you’re getting ready for bed. “Snuggling up against a warm blanket or taking a warm shower or bath before bed can help lower your core temperature by encouraging your blood vessels to expand, thereby losing excess body heat,” says expert Theresa Schnorbach. dormant at Emma’s. (opens in a new tab) (the bed brand behind the best memory foam mattress, in our opinion).
3. Cool pulse points
A quick way to cool the body is to spray cold water on pulse points, such as your wrists or the sides of your neck. “Your body’s blood vessels will react to the cooling sensation and instantly lower your core temperature,” says Theresa. Avoid using this technique on the hands and feet themselves, as it can actually prevent you from falling.
4. Make an inverted hot water bottle
If you’re really hot, create a cold compress to snuggle up to by wrapping an ice pack in a cloth or towel and taking it to bed with you. “Hold it against the places where your blood flows closest to the surface of your skin and it will cool you down quickly,” suggests Theresa. Another option is to fill your hot water bottle with cold water, or even just use a damp washcloth.
5. Wear cotton pajamas (or nothing)
Lots of people like to strip down to their birthday suits when they’re trying to sleep in the heat, but if you’d rather wear something you should opt for pajamas made from natural fibers – probably cotton. “Natural cotton is your best bet because cotton actually helps your skin breathe, while also absorbing your sweat during the night,” says Theresa. This tip also applies to your bed linen. “Swap heavy bedding or sheets for lighter fabrics. Particles and natural fibers are generally better for breathability, so select those if possible,” adds Rebecca.
6. Don’t eat late at night
As far as general sleep hygiene goes, it’s also a good idea to avoid eating late at night, so your body isn’t yet busy digesting your dinner while you’re trying to fall asleep, as this can keep you awake longer. (Stay away from that curry takeout menu, too — spicy foods have been shown to raise your body temperature, according to Theresa.)
Rebecca says the ideal situation is to opt for a hearty breakfast and lunch, but a lighter dinner. “A dinner that is too heavy or eaten too close to bedtime can interfere with our ability to fall asleep,” she explains. “Try to eat your last meal at least 2 hours before bedtime. Then, switch to a soothing herbal tea.