6 ways to sleep when it's super hot
Hot sex has happy connotations, but hot sleep? Not so much. How can you get a good night's sleep when temperatures soar and air-conditioning isn't working or isn't an option?
You're not imagining it if hot summer nights make you toss and turn, says sleep medicine specialist and neurologist Alon Avidan, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. "You take longer to fall asleep and don't stay asleep as long, and you miss the deep and restorative stages of sleep," he says.
Falls are another risk: Older adults with heart conditions or who take certain medicines can lose body fluids and have lowered blood pressure, putting them at risk for falls. Temperatures above 75 degrees F can disturb sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Try these tips to stay cool:
By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor
Sip icy cold milk or tea before bed
Hot weather can be dehydrating. Having something to drink before bed can prevent you from waking up hot and thirsty. Cold fluids, especially, can lower your core body temperature, says Avidan. Milk is high in the amino acid L-tryptophan and in calcium, both of which are linked to better sleep.
Avoid a cooling cocktail before you turn in, though. Alcohol tends to hasten sleep -- but then it makes you wake up in the middle of the night until blood alcohol levels fall.
A shower or bath -- even in hot water -- before bed can have the effect of cooling you off, says Avidan.
Beware a bathroom that's close to the bedroom, however. The humidity your bathing creates can wind up making the sleeping area feel more muggy.
Spread a terry towel over your sheets
First, ditch all the blankets. Thin cotton sheets are all you need. Or you can try using one cotton top sheet (or none) and sleeping on top of a beach towel or extra-large bath towel spread over the bottom sheet. Terry cloth absorbs sweat better than a thin sheet, especially a synthetic one, which can get damp with sweat.
Sleep naked -- or with just cold socks
Because pajamas can trap heat around your body, some people feel cooler without any. ("There's not much science around this; it may be a personal preference," says Avidan.)
Too modest (or likely to be visited in the night by a small child)? Pick the shortest, airiest cotton nightgown or cotton boxers. This is no time for sweatpants, knits, or anything with length to the ankles or legs. Leave a robe next to the bed if you're worried about emergencies.
Some people swear by socks they've chilled in the refrigerator as a way to cool down the rest of the body.
Change up your schedule
If you have the flexibility, try borrowing this idea from the past: A midday siesta to power you through evening. "European peasants used to nap during the hottest part of the day in summer, then continue working late into the evening while there was still light," says sleep researcher Roger Ekirch, professor of history at Virginia Tech and author of At Day's Close.
Sleep in a different spot
Can't change your schedule? Change where you sleep. Heat rises, so if your bedroom is upstairs, you might be cooler sleeping downstairs on a sofa. Some people swear by hammocks and cots, which allow air to circulate all around you, or futons, which are low to the ground, where air is coolest. Also, remember to pull down shades or close blinds by day to help keep heat out of the house to begin with.