How to sleep in hot weather and wake up feeling refreshed

Experts share their top tips for keeping cool when a heatwave hits

woman waking up in bed with arms above head
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While many of us thrive off warm sunny weather in the summer months, research shows one in four of us struggle to sleep in the heat. If you find yourself tossing and turning when a heatwave hits, try these simple expert tips for a good night's sleep in hot weather.  

Even the best pillow, a cooling comforter or light linen pajamas are no match for a heatwave. Hot weather can really wreak havoc with your bedtime routine and lead to disrupted sleep or even insomnia. Because the body is unable to cool itself down effectively when the warm weather hits, you're unlikely to be able to relax and start the process of falling asleep into the essential sleep cycles. 

A lack of sleep can have a huge impact on your overall health, leaving you waking up tired and groggy and impacting your immune system.

"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," explains health psychologist Professor Mark Cropley, from the University of Surrey. 

That's why it's important to nip sleepless summer night's in the bud before things go on too long. So, to help you fall asleep in hot weather and get your eight hours a night, no matter the season, we asked the experts.

How to sleep when it's hot 

1. Stay hydrated 

Hot flushes by day and night sweats by night? It’s time to up your water intake for better hydration to help you fall asleep easier in the heat. 

"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 liters a day and take a fresh herb extract of sage, such as A. Vogel Menoforce Sage 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.

2. Watch out for dietary deficiencies

Your diet can also play a part in sleep quality so it's a good place to start when you're struggling to sleep.

"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," clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer adds. 

So stock up on green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and oily fish to ensure you’re getting these essential vitamins and minerals. 

3. Re-think you portions

It’s also important to consider portions when it comes to what you eat before bed, particularly when the weather is hot. 

"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.

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.

If you are prone to a bedtime snack, instead try bananas, nuts or oats – all of which promote melatonin. Swap caffeinated drinks or alcohol for a cup of sleep tea.

4. Cool down your sleep space

For a good night’s sleep, your body temperature needs to drop between 0.5-1C. 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, especially during a heatwave. 

"Your room should be 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. Stanley.

During hot weather, it is harder to lose body heat and this can disturb your sleep.

"Being too 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. Stanley. "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? Instead, Dr. Stanley suggests wearing cotton pajamas, as this helps wick away any moisture and will stop you from feeling clammy during the night.

As for bedding, choose cotton sheets and a lighter duvet tog. "Natural fibers help regulate your body temperature by allowing the air to move freely and circulate through the fabric," says Dr. Stanley, "As a general rule of thumb, a 2.5-7 tog is ideal for summer." You could also invest in one of the best cooling pillows for the summer months.

If you find your room is still too hot in the evening, invest in a fan and switch it on to cool down your room for an hour before you get into bed. 

5. Have a warm bath

"Strange as it may seem, taking a warm bath or shower will actually help you cool down quicker than a cool shower," says Dr. Stanley

"Having a cool bath or 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 into cooling down. To boost this effect even further, hormone nutritionist Jackie recommends adding bath salts or oils into the mix.

"Enjoying a warm Epsom salt bath (that is magnesium-rich) with lavender drops aids muscle relaxation and induces sleepiness," she says.