Exposure to heat has been found to increase middle-of-the-night wakefulness and decrease both deep, slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. (1) Below, our resident sleep expert, Allison Siebern, PhD, weighs in on tips for a better night’s sleep during those hot summer months.

While you may be tempted to jump in a cold shower before going to bed, research suggests (2) that it’s actually a warm shower or bath that’s most effective in lowering your core body temperature.

No air conditioning? Try an open window to facilitate fresh airflow. Remember, even if the day has been hot, temperatures tend to drop a few degrees in the late evening/early morning, which means you may benefit from a cool breeze to lower the room temperature and help you get better sleep.

Preferably one that spins so you can keep the cool air moving and circulating throughout your bedroom while drawing the hot air out.

Pro tip: if you’re working with a standing box fan rather than a ceiling fan, try placing a bowl of ice cubes in front of the fan for a misty spray as the fan blows cold vapor off the surface of the ice. It’s the perfect way to get a cross breeze and an extra cooling effect.

During certain sleep stages, our bodies do not thermoregulate as much, so if your sleep environment is too hot or cold, it can lead to sleep disruptions. Right around bedtime, your body temperature drops 1-2 degrees, which signals to your internal clock that it’s time to hit the hay. We recommend keeping your air conditioner at a cool 60 - 67°F.

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Cooling PJs from the aptly-named Cool-Jams are specially designed with polyester microfiber material that’s engineered to feel like soft cotton—but with the added bonus of fast wicking and drying properties. Initially developed for the Canadian armed forces who needed temperature-regulating material, the Moisture Transference System (MST) microfiber technology helps pull moisture away from the body to keep you cool and comfortable all night long.

During hot summer nights, it’s best to stick with material known for optimal breathability, including Tencel, bamboo-derived rayon, silk, and cotton sheets. There are also a wide variety of cooling pillows out there—we recommend taking a look at this list compiled by Sleep Foundation. They’ve also done some digging to find the best cooling mattresses for hot sleepers.

Wet a washcloth with ice water (or, if you have time, wet and freeze it), then press it against your forehead to stay cool in the summer heat. An ice pack would work here as well to prevent overheating.

While your forehead is the most obvious spot to keep the cold compress (since that’s where sweat typically accumulates), it’s also worth focusing on your pulse points: ankles, wrists, back of knees, and elbow creases.

Remember, heat rises. So if it’s possible, try temporarily switching your sleeping location to a lower level during a heat wave.

Also, although there’s little hard science behind this, some people have noticed that sleeping in what’s called a “starfish position” with your hands and legs outstretched is a good way to distribute body heat and stay cool. Keep in mind, though, that this is difficult—if not impossible—for those with bed partners.


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