By Frank Apodaca, thesleepjudge.com
Rolling into summer certainly has its perks. Long twilight-lit evenings, BBQs, and cold drinks on the porch are all ways to escape the confines of the indoors and cool off with friends and family. But what summer also brings is heat, humidity, and a general inability to get comfortable once it’s time to turn off the lights and get some rest.
Drifting off to sleep when you are feeling hot and clammy can be uncomfortable to say the least and nothing is worse than waking in a pool of sweat either. And, sleep is important. We’ve all woken up groggy and feeling tired after a night of interrupted rest, but it doesn’t take long for this to translate into an unhealthy mental and physical state. Since sleep is what restores us each night, how much we get and the quality of our rest is crucial to our well-being.
Adults should get, on average, a total of 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Anything less and you begin to build up a sleep debt, which results in your body’s craving to make up for that lost time. Your cognitive brain function is supported through rest, and many problem solving and memory skills occur while you sleep, so it’s no wonder you may struggle after a night of disruption. Furthermore, soft-tissue regeneration, bone growth and cellular turnover occur at this time as well. When interrupted, this can lead to poor immune health, and even result in an increase in cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and a higher incidence of stroke.
Since our body temperature naturally begins to drop while we drift off to sleep, the key to a cooler night’s rest is to support this natural occurrence. If you have an AC, then set it to fall between 60 and 67 degrees (at any time of year) to help support an overall healthier you. If you don’t, then the following tips will help get you more comfortable each evening.
1. Consider Your Sleeping Surface
Many people think that it’s only their blankets that provide the insulation they need to stay warm, but your mattress surface is just as important. After all, it does cover about half your body surface. A mattress should breathe and not cause heat retentions. Certain materials are more prone to this problem than others, such as memory foam due to how it conforms around your body. Because it can be a common complaint, it is often directly addressed in the industry by the addition of specialized cooling technologies to create a selection of cooling mattresses more available to air circulation. Often these include gel-infused comfort layers, additional air channels within the layers and moisture wicking fabrics to help keep your skin cool.
Organic mattresses also address these issues as organic materials, such as bamboo, hemp, cotton, and wool, which breathe naturally and allow for an increase in airflow. Many times, these materials are found amongst the top comfort layers to help draw moisture and heat away from the body.
2. Cooling Pads for Relief
If you aren’t in the market for a new mattress, but are troubled by the heat retained by your mattress surface, there are many cooling-pad options available for you to place on the surface of your bed to help with this. These often serve as a dual purpose as well and can provide extra cushioning for joint relief without sacrificing support, or even a more uniform layer of cushioning for your existing mattress comfort layer.
Gel-infused foams with added air channels are popular picks for surface comfort. Many thin pads also exist to help draw heat from your body without sacrificing the feel of your mattress if you aren’t keen on a new sleeping surface. Also available on the market are cooling fans or even channeled pads that blow air or circulate cooled water on your mattress surface.
3. Use Organic Sheets
Mentioned earlier is the breathability of organic materials. Many times, synthetic materials or petroleum are made in fabric construction to help drive down costs, but the result is often a lower quality product that has little in the way of airflow that will retain both heat and moisture. Organic materials allow moisture to be absorbed and kept off the surface of the body as it dissipates, as does heat.
4. Low Thread Count Sheets For the Win
High thread count sheets may feel great against your skin, but the closer together the fibers are woven, the less breathability you have. A tight weave often results in a softer, more drapery fabric. These are great choices for cooler weather, but in the summer you want a sheet that allows for airflow and body heat movement. If you have a cooling sleeping surface it won’t be much good if the heat and moisture of your body is trapped by your sheets.
5. Wear Natural Fibers, or Nothing at All
Sleeping naked with just a sheet truly is one of the best cooling options you can take advantage of. Letting air to circulate over your body is a cooling process that can be more effective than almost anything you can purchase. But if this isn’t an option, just like the material choices of your mattress and sheets, pick natural fibers to sleep in as well if sleeping in the nude isn’t your first pick. Natural fibers will allow for air to move over your skin unhindered due to the porous nature of the material.
6. Create a Cross Breeze
Opening windows throughout the house, taking advantage of ceiling fans, and using box fans to either direct cool night air, or draw out heated room air, are all options that can be very effective. When used in conjunction with one another you can create a cross breeze to help circulate air to bring in the cooler night temps and move out the heat of the day.
Even opening windows from one end of the house to another can be extremely effective if you don’t have any fans. This creates draw, similar to why an open door may slam shut if you open in another in a different area of the house. As night falls and temperatures cool, cooler air sinks as heat rises so this cross-draw can really get some air moving quickly.
7. Avoid Stimulants
Caffeine and fast carbs may keep us moving and alert through the afternoon, but they also take time to process. Avoid these for up to 6 hours prior to bed to ensure they have left your system, or your body may be working to process them, raising your core body temperature in order to break them down. This works against you in two ways: since your body is working it doesn’t enter in the naturally cooling process it undergoes while you sleep, plus it keeps you feeling more alert.
8. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is good for you in so many ways. It supports how your body processes food, cellular structure, metabolism, and even healthy brain function. Plus, it helps your body regulate temperature. When we sweat, our body is attempting to cool itself, and when you aren’t hydrated it struggles to excise that moisture. If you are feeling hot, drink some water and let your body naturally begin to cool.
A good rule of thumb to staying hydrated is to get in the habit of drinking one, 8oz glass of water an hour. Obviously you can drink more as needed at any time, or even get some of your hydration from other liquids we drink, as well as foods.
9. Keep a Dark House
Much of the heat in your house occurs from radiant heat throughout the day. If you cover your windows and drapes to keep it darker inside, you actually will help keep it cooler as well by deflecting the sunlight and trapping the cooler night air.
This is especially true if you keep your windows open during the night. Just be sure to close them again in the morning to help keep the cooler air from escaping back outside as the day warms. Your house will still warm up, but not as much as if you allowed the heat to beat in through the windows every afternoon.
10. Put Your Pillow or Sheet in the Freezer
The worst part of a hot evening is when you initially are trying to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Place your pillow and top sheet in the freezer if you have the room and take them out before bed. They will stay cool long enough to help get you comfortable and settled in to fall asleep.
Hopefully the above tips are enough to help you approach the impending dog days of summer with a few ideas to help keep you cool. Your quality of sleep is important for your everyday success, and losing it shouldn’t have to be due to a change in season.