Dr Sophie Bostock’s Top 10 Tips for Sleeping when it’s Hot

Posted by Dr Sophie Bostock - Sleep Expert on 25th Aug 2023

Dr Sophie Bostock’s Top 10 Tips for Sleeping when it’s Hot

We’re at that time again... When your ice-cream melts before you have time to remove the wrapper, you know your sleep is in trouble. (The fact that you’re craving ice cream is also a good clue.)

We rely on a fall in our core body temperature as a cue for sleep. If the bedroom is too hot, we not only struggle to fall into deep sleep, but we’re more likely to wake up during the night. So what can you do to minimise sleep disruption when it’s hot outside?

Top 10 tips for sleeping when it's hot

1. Block out the heat during the day

A lady closing her curtains during the day to block out the hot sun

Keep the curtains drawn and the window closed while it’s hot during the day, to prevent sunlight warming everything up. (If you didn’t close your curtains when you got out of bed, feel free to go and do that now.)

2. Allow air to circulate at night

An empty bed with an open window at dusk allowing cool air to circulate after a hot day

If you can keep the window open, do - ear plugs may help to drown out any outside noise. A fan can also help.. If the air temperature is very high, keeping ice cubes or an ice pack in front of the fan could help increase the cooling effect.

3. Take a warm bath or shower at least an hour before bed

A lady relaxing in a warm bath after a hot day

It sounds unlikely, but the pro-sleep ‘warm bath effect’ is an actual thing. A warm bath can help you relax, and it may be that increased circulation to the extremities actually helps to cool the core (internal) body temperature.

4. Ditch the duvet

A bed featuring a thin sheet rather than a duvet as the sunshine cascades in through the window on a hot day

Swap a high tog duvet for a low tog summer duvet, or just take out the quilt and use the cover. Some covering can have a calming effect, but you may find yourself more comfortable with no covers at all. The jury is out on pyjamas.. Some say that cotton/breathable pyjamas are better than sleeping in your birthday suit since they will wick the sweat away. It may be a case of experimenting to see which you prefer when it’s hot.

5. Stay hydrated

A glass of water being poured

In warm weather, drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can interfere with restful sleep. Research also suggests that lack of sleep reduces vasopressin, a hormone which controls fluid balance, so you’re actually more likely to be dehydrated after a terrible night’s sleep. Avoid drinking too much water in the hour before bed though, since this could make for multiple bathroom breaks.

6. Be tactical about co-sleeping.. time for a sleep holiday?

An unhappy couple after not getting enough sleep when it's hot outside

Two warm bodies will conserve heat more than one. If you usually share the bed with a partner, child or favourite pet, it could be time for an honest conversation aka some solo sleeping. If you both get more sleep, it will almost certainly be a good thing for your relationship.

7. Buffering the mattress

A person inspecting their mattress while contemplating if they need to switch it out for one that works better when it's hot outside

Some mattresses retain more heat than others - for example, memory foam tends to hug the body contours and absorb heat. A mattress topper or pad made out of breathable fibres could help buffer that effect. If you need to replace your mattress, you could also try one designed to regulate body temperature.

8. Keep it dark

A little girl silhouetted against her black out blinds which are helping to keep her bedroom dark while it's hot outside

In addition to temperature, light has a strong influence on our body clocks. Long evenings and early dawns in the summer send an alerting signal to the brain, and make it harder to

sleep. Black out blinds or an eye mask may help you to sleep more easily. If you get up to go to the bathroom at night, stick to a dim night light, or use your phone.

9. Warm air rises

A woman sleeping on her stomach on a couch on the ground floor of her house when it's hot outside

It sounds obvious, but if you’re lucky enough to have a choice over which floor to sleep on, the lower one is likely to be cooler in the summer. If you live in an attic room, it may be that it's time to phone a friend for a visit.

10. Try and enjoy the ride

Three ice lollies standing upright in the sand with a background of the sea and a blue sky as the sun sets

Sleepless nights are no fun, but on the plus side, a steamy night will probably be followed by a perfect day for enjoying the sunshine (and that ice-cream). In the UK, you can be pretty confident the hot weather is a short-term phenomenon. From a mindset perspective, if you can just accept a temporary blip in your sleep, rather than letting frustration take hold, it’s much more likely that sleep will catch up with you. Even when trying to sleep when it’s hot outside!

authors profile
Dr Sophie Bostock
Sleep Expert
Sophie brings a wealth of expertise to the role having spent the last six years researching and championing the importance of sleep science in NHS and corporate settings. Sophie was responsible for improving access to the award-winning digital sleep improvement programme, Sleepio, as an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow. She has delivered hundreds of talks, including for TEDx and Talks@Google, and regularly features as a media sleep expert.
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