How to sleep in a heat wave

In California, temperatures nearing 110 (Fahrenheit) are setting records, bringing the state’s electrical grid to a breaking point. In the UK and Europe, recurring heatwaves are heating up residents and tourists alike, igniting wildfires and promoting droughts – all while Europe is suffering from energy shortages due to Russian restrictions on the supply of natural gas to the region.
Many homes and hotels in the area do not have air conditioning, leaving people used to extreme heat unsure how to deal with it. Historically in much of the UK and the rest of Britain there was no need for central air Europe – high temperatures were not the norm. That could change permanently, according to a recent analysis that predicted extreme temperatures in the region will become the norm by 2035.
It’s not just the unbearable sun, but temperatures don’t drop as they should at night either. A February study found that the kind of cool, wet nights needed to control wildfires are disappearing: Between 1979 and 2003 there was a 36% average annual increase in “flammable” nights.
“Sleep is a vital function necessary for adaptive physical and mental well-being,” says a review published Thursday in the Journal of Sleep Research, which addresses the health effects of sleeping in warmer temperatures and offers tips for coping.

To get the best sleep quality, experts have long recommended sleeping in a cool room — between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) is best. What happens if you can’t do that during a heat wave?

Stay cool without air conditioning
Studies have shown that higher nighttime temperatures increase alertness and reduce deep waves and REM (rapid eye movement), both of which are critical to how well the body repairs and refreshes itself at night.
According to a 2019 study, exposure to heat waves during pregnancy can be linked to adverse outcomes like preterm birth. Older adults may have higher heart rates and more physiological stress when sleeping in warmer temperatures. A 2008 Australian study even found that deaths from mental and behavioral disorders increased during heat waves, particularly among older adults.

Tips for sleeping in the heat

If we learn how to better manage sleep problems during heat waves, we may be able to limit the negative impact on our health, according to a team of experts from the European Insomnia Network who authored the study.

Here are some of the top tips from the review, along with suggestions from sleep experts in the United States who were not involved in the publication.

1) Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water during the day can help your body better regulate your temperature at night.

Electric fans use about 50% less electricity than AC, the review said.

But don’t drink an hour or two before bed or you’ll wake up at night to go to the bathroom, said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Instead, try “sucking ice cubes before bed.”

Eating lighter meals during the day can also help, said Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of sleep medicine and professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

2) Choose loose cotton clothing – avoid synthetics which can trap heat on the skin.

3) If you’re lucky enough to have a cooler period during the day, open windows and doors and start fans to air out the bedroom, then close them when the temperature rises.

4) When there are no heat breaks, close the shades, pull the shades down, and do what you can “to keep the house and bedroom as cool and dark as possible both during the day and at night,” the suggested review before.

5) Avoid alcohol in the evening – it dehydrates the body and prepares you for night sweats.

6) Give yourself and your child an hour or more before bed to engage in calming activities such as “read a book, a story, or listen to music. This might help with cooling down and relaxing,” the review added.

7) Before jumping into the hot bag, take a lukewarm or cool (but not cold) shower or foot bath, which can help reduce your heat stress and prepare you for sleep. How does this happen?

“Your body temperature drops after you exit the shower or bath as your body adjusts to the cooler environment,” Dasputa said. “This drop in temperature prepares your body for sleep because our body temperature follows a natural circadian rhythm — the body is primed to cool down when you lie down and warm up when you get up.”

The Best Alarm Clocks of 2022 (Courtesy of CNN Undescored)

8) Try your best to keep your bedroom below 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) if you can. To do this, try using ceiling fans or electric floor or bed fans, which use “up to 50 times less electricity” than air conditioners,” the review said.

“There are also fairly inexpensive ice cooling fans that can be placed near the bed,” Zee said in an email. “If you can’t keep the bedroom cool, it’s cooler to temporarily sleep on the lower floors like the basement (if you have one).”

Tips aside, the health effects on people used to temperate climates have not been thoroughly researched, said psychiatrist Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

Studying people who live in hot countries and have adapted to the hot climate would also be helpful, Kolla said: “There is no evidence that they suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders more often, or that they actually sleep poorly. So it’s very likely that we can learn many things about the adaptations of these cultures that have lived in much hotter climates for many centuries.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *