These are the best sleeping positions for hot weather, revealed by experts

The best sleeping positions for hot weather may be the difference between feeling cool and comfortable in bed or struggling to sleep

Woman lying on her side asleep peacefully in bed with sunlight coming in through the open curtains, representing best sleeping positions for hot weather
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Choosing the best sleeping positions for hot weather may be the difference between drifting off on a warm summer's evening and tossing and turning in the heat. 

Heat and good sleep aren't famous bedfellows, considering we need to be at a certain temperature for our bodies to recognise it's time to switch off. Hot bedrooms, heavy sheets, and limited airflow make this very difficult, as do some sleeping positions where our bodies have maximum contact with the mattress. 

Here, woman&home speaks to a sleep scientist and physiotherapist specialising in sleep to reveal what positions work best for warm nights - and other top tips to help you learn how to sleep in the heat comfortably. 

Best sleeping positions for hot weather

1. The Back Sleeper

Illustration of a woman sleeping on her back during a heatwave

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the name suggests, this sleeping position has you lying on your back in bed. "Lie down with a thin pillow or no pillow at all to keep your head slightly elevated," suggests Sammy Margo, a chartered physiotherapist and sleep specialist. "By keeping your head slightly elevated, yo can prevent excessive heat build-up as heat tends to rise."

2. The Starfish

Illustration of a woman sleeping in the starfish position to try and lose heat in bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sure, it's perhaps not the most social position if you share your bed with someone else - but if you're alone, starfishing in bed could be the winning answer to sleeping in the heat.

"Lying on your back with your limbs spread out can assist in cooling the body, as it maximises the surface area exposed to the air. Additionally, using a lighter duvet or using just the sheet or duvet cover can further enhance comfort," says Margo, also the resident sleep expert at Dreams

However, if you have any lower back or neck pain, the starfish may be one to avoid. "It's generally not recommended as it can strain the neck and back, leading to pain which can interfere with sleep," says Dr Kat Lederle, a sleep and body clock scientist. 

3. The Legs Up

Woman lying on back with legs elevated

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"Lie on your back and elevate your legs by placing a pillow or cushion under your knees," suggests Margo. "This position may help to improve your circulation and reduce tired, achy, and puffy legs, allowing for better blood flow and heat dissipation." 

4. The Side Sleeper

Illustration of a woman lying in the spooning position on her side during heatwave

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sleeping on your side can be particularly beneficial if you struggle to sleep with lower back pain. Lying down on your side with a thin pillow supporting your neck and a somewhat larger pillow between your legs, with the knees and hips nicely stacked on top of each other is ideal for spinal alignment, says Dr Lederle. 

It's a position that's particularly great for those who suffer from sleep conditions like sleep apnea and snoring too, adds Margo. 

Why is it so hard to sleep in the heat? 

It's so hard for many of us to sleep in a heatwave because the higher temperature prevents some essential bodily processes from taking place. "To fall asleep, our core body temperature has to drop just before bedtime. To do so, the body releases heat via the blood vessels near the skin in your feet and hands," explains Lederle. 

"But there also has to be a temperature gradient," she adds. "The environment needs to be cooler, so it can take on the heat from the body. Now we have hot weather and warmer evenings, this gradient is smaller. The body is less able to give off heat or only do so later in the night."

Margo also says that higher temperatures at night can prevent the release of melatonin - the hormone that induces sleepiness in the body - as we miss out on the ideal temperature for sleeping. "For melatonin to be released optimally, our body temperature needs to sit around 37°C, and so having a cool room at around 16-18°C when it’s hot outside can help facilitate this," she says. 

Tips for sleeping better in a heatwave

  • Keep the bedroom cool: Having a cooler sleeping environment and better sleep hygiene is essential if you want to get to sleep easier in the heat, says Lederle. "I close the windows and curtains mid-morning and open them later in the evening when the air has cooled somewhat."
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration will put the body under even more stress, so stay hydrated through the day and have a bottle of water next to your bed for the night. This is a key part of learning how to sleep better at any time of year as dehydration isn't just an issue in the summer months. 
  • Put a cool towel in the bed with you: "Placing a cool towel beneath yourself, or using a cooling pillow, can help regulate body temperature and prevent overheating, and can also be used to keep your bed cool before getting into your usual sleeping position," says Margo.
  • Don't worry about not sleeping well: "We are all in the same boat," says Lederle. "Most of us will find it hard to sleep well through a hot summer’s night. The more you worry, the more you stress. That will lead to busy thoughts and a tense body, which is the opposite of being calm and relaxed, two key ingredients for sleep."
  • Accept that there will be some sleepless nights this summer: Whether you struggle to get back to sleep after waking up during the night from the heat or can't fall asleep in the first place, it's better to accept the situation and relax, rather than trying to force yourself to fall asleep. "When you say to yourself ‘I look after my sleep in the best way possible and I realise that I can’t control it. Heat makes sleeping tricky because of how our bodies are designed, not ideal but that is how it is', chances are you'll feel better about the situation," she says.

Much like all recommended wellbeing routines, positions, and habits, the best sleeping positions for hot weather come down to personal preference at the end of the day. "All our bodies are different so it comes down to what position you feel comfortable in to avoid pain, feel relaxed, and breathe easily," says Dr Lederle. 

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.