It can be a challenge to sleep in the heat. Here are some tips to help your family make it through the night.

When we face a heatwave, summer sleep is can be even more of a problem. The reason is physiological: what happens to our bodies before sleep. The fact is, we sleep better when it’s cool. With an ideal sleeping temperature between 60° and 67°F (15.5 and 19.4°C).
Our bodies prepare for sleep. Heart and breathing rates slow, brainwave patterns change. And our body temperature drops. A cool inner body temperature keeps us on healthy sleep cycles throughout the night.
One of those cycles is the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. REM is essential for restorative sleep. During REM, we lose our ability to sweat. That has huge implications. Our bodies are unable to efficiently regulate our inner temperature to the room’s temperature. When the room is hot, our bodies heat up, interrupting sleep. Sometimes to the point of making going back to sleep difficult to impossible. The tips below are for those who don’t have air conditioning. For those that do, here’s some advice on how to optimize your air conditioner during a heatwave.

Cool down your bedroom

1. Hot air rises. If you sleep on the second floor, consider moving your mattress or a sleeping pad to a lower floor. You can also sleep on the floor. For kids, keep the routine consistent with your bedtime routine essentials. That way they won’t get too excited about the idea of “camping out” in their own bedroom.

2.  Watch your windows. Get in the habit of monitoring the weather outside and adjusting shades in response. Start the morning by blocking out the sun and drawing shades closed. Close the windows to trap cooler air in during the day. Open windows at night to allow in the cool air. If you can get a cross breeze going at night, you’ll find yourself much cooler and able to sleep better.

3.  Become a fan of fans! You can DIY an “air conditioner” by placing a shallow pan filled with ice in front of a table or box fan. If you’ve got a ceiling fan work it like a boss. Set the speed to high and the direction to counterclockwise. The result is a wind-chill effect, pushing cold air down.

4. Unplug. This works for sleep in cool weather as well as a heatwave. Unplug all electronics, chargers, radios, and other heat-producing items. They’re distracting and destroy the natural production of sleep-supportive hormones such as melatonin. They’re also energy vampires, costing you money and straining the grid.

Cool down your bed

1. Sheets made with natural fibers such as bamboo, Tencel, or 100% cotton can do a lot to turn down the heat so you sleep better. The natural fibers wick away moisture.  A list of the top-rated cooling sheets can be found at this link.

2.  Sleep alone. It’s just common sense. Another body generates more heat. So tell your partner or spouse to find their own cool place to sleep in the heat. It’s only temporary.  And kick those pets out of bed! I know they’re adorable. But in the middle of the heatwave, the last thing you want as a sleeping partner is a heat-producing creature who doesn’t understand the word “No!”.

Cool down your self

1. Eat light. No need for a heavy dinner in this weather. Karman Meyer’s book, Eat to Sleep, is an ideal resource for light, nutritious, and delicious meals.2. Avoid alcohol. No one likes a summer cocktail better than I, but the fact is alcohol disrupts sleep and dehydrates. Making it a “perfect storm” during hot summer months when it comes to sleep. Here’s a seasonal guide to “mocktails”.

3. Water and ice. A cool shower before bed, getting your hair wet without a shampoo, is an effective way to cool down. Ice packs, frozen vegetables in their bag, or just plain ice can be applied to pulse points such as the wrists, elbows, and behind the knees to cool everyone down. Make sure the little ones don’t get too giddy and over-stimulated when you come at them with a bag of roasted corn.

And if the heat gets too much to sleep…

…call a family member or friend with air conditioning and ask some space to spend the night. And never sleep in a car with air conditioning with the motor running.

Bedtime Mindset

All the sleep hacks and sleep products out there are not as powerful as making bedtime the best time. Consistency with a bedtime routine really pays off during times of crisis. The Put the Day to Bed guided meditation plus illustrated printable allows you to release the day and connect with your child in less than 7 minutes.  Make it part of your bedtime routine tonight.