Tossing and turning? Try our expert tips on ensuring a restful slumber.
How well do you sleep? Recent research found that one in four of us struggle to sleep in the heat, which has subsequent effects on daily life.
“A staggering 700 of the body’s genes, including those that control the immune system, are affected if someone sleeps less than six hours a night,” says health psychologist Professor Mark Cropley, from the University of Surrey. And in the height of summer, it can be even harder to drift off.
But you don’t have to wait till autumn to get your eight hours. Try our handy tips to help you nod off when it’s too hot to sleep…
Hot flushes by day and night sweats in bed? It’s time to up your water intake.
“Women rarely think about increasing their water intake to counter the fluid loss, and it is particularly pertinent for those with heavy night sweats that result in sleep deprivation,” says nutritional therapist Alison Cullen. “Dehydration can also cause heart palpitations – an extra source of draining stress.”
Increase your water intake to two litres a day and take a fresh herb extract of sage, such as A. Vogel Menoforce Sage, £13.49 for 30 tablets, Boots, which has been shown to reduce severe night sweats and hot flushes by 79% after eight weeks.
“Menopausal women can also be prone to urinary tract infections and the summer heat can increase the risk. Staying hydrated reduces this risk,” says Alison.
Watch out for dietary deficiencies
Our diets can also play a part in sleep quality.
“Melatonin, commonly referred to as the ‘sleep hormone’, is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Ensure your diet includes tryptophan-containing foods like salmon, chicken, turkey, eggs, spinach, nuts, seeds and milk,” says hormone nutritionist Jackie McCusker.
Additionally, B vitamins, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids act as activators for the conversion of tryptophan into melatonin.
“A deficiency in calcium and magnesium can also cause you to wake up after a few hours,” says clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer.
So stock up on green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and oily fish to ensure you’re getting these essential vitamins and minerals.
It’s also important to consider portions.
“Too much food or alcohol in hot weather means that the body is also having to burn off these calories, making it even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep,” explains Dr Neil Stanley.
And steer clear of refined carbohydrates in your evening meal – if you’re having carbs for dinner, opt for the complex kind, such as brown rice or pasta, which release energy slowly.
“Refined carbs like white pasta, rice and bread can cause a peak in sugar levels and the resultant release of stress hormones can wake you in the night,” says nutritionist Kim Pearson.
In need of a bedtime snack? Choose bananas, nuts and oats – all of which promote melatonin.
Keep your cool
For a good night’s sleep, you need to drop between 0.5-1C of your body temperature. This heat is mostly lost through our head where it sticks out of the duvet, but it’s essential our room is the correct temperature.
“This is approximately 16-18C, which is much cooler than under the duvet and so there is a temperature gradient allowing you to easily lose the body heat needed,’”explains Dr Neil.
During hot weather, it is harder to lose body heat and this can disturb your sleep.
“Being over-hot in bed by 3-4C changes brainwave patterns, reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, increases the chances of waking up and reduces deep sleep,” says Dr Sarah. “Sleeping naked means that your body remains cooler during the night, which is important, as overheating is a common cause of disturbed sleep.”
Not so keen on sleeping in the nude? “Wear cotton pyjamas, as this helps wick away any moisture, so will stop you feeling clammy during the night,” suggests Dr Neil.
As for bedding, choose cotton sheets and a lighter duvet tog. “Natural fibres help regulate your body temperature by allowing the air to move freely and circulate through the fabric,” says Dr Neil, “and as a general rule of thumb, a 2.5-7 tog is ideal for summer.”
Have a warm bath
“Strange as it may seem, taking a warm shower or bath will actually help you cool down quicker than a cool shower,” says Dr Neil.
“Having a cool shower does not reduce the core body temperature, only the skin temperature, and so the body may in fact try to produce more heat to rewarm the skin.”
Having a warm shower heats the skin, tricking the body to try and cool down. To boost it further, try bath salts or essential oils, says Jackie.
“Enjoying a warm Epsom salt bath (that is magnesium-rich) with lavender drops aids muscle relaxation and induces sleepiness,” she says.