As much as we can appreciate heat waves while sipping pina coladas at the beach, it can also make our Monday to Friday life much harder. Heat and humidity make even sitting down unbearable, let alone sleeping.
Sleep can be hard enough to get at the best of times, but in the height of summer with temperatures souring, even the soundest of sleepers can find themselves struggling with insomnia.
It (sleep) plays a critical role in the function of our immune system, learning, memory, metabolism, mood and look. Lack of sleep can leave us permanently irritated and exhausted. By learning to avoid common enemies of sleep and trying out a mixture of techniques, you can find your personal prescription to a good night’s sleep.
If you are tired of counting sheep, check out tips from our experts on how to sleep like a baby during this hot summer.
Think about what you are eating and when you are eating
“Make sure that you have enough protein during the day, such as meats, fish, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, as they are full of tryptophan. This important amino acid converts in our body to serotonin, which is known as a ‘happy hormone’ and melatonin that is essential for good sleep” says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at Superfooduk.com,(1) the online shopping destination for health and wellbeing.
“Include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and seafood, leafy green vegetables, and dried fruits. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ and it helps our muscles to relax. Try KalmAssure from Natures Plus (www.naturesplus.co.uk,)(2) £24.50” recommends Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.
“It is best not to eat too late – heavy foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and can keep you up. However, if you have your evening meal more than about four hours before going to bed you may wake up due to low blood sugar levels. A snack of a complex carbohydrate food before bed – such as a couple of oatcakes or some rye crackers with a bit of hummus – can give a gentle release of energy and help to stop us waking up hungry during the night” adds Shona.
Three times NO
“That night-time tipple to help you go to sleep may be doing just the opposite. It might relax your muscles at first and help you to snooze, but it can disrupt the various stages of sleep and wake you up in the middle of the night. If you don’t want alcohol to stop you from snoozing, avoid drinking for four hours before bedtime. The rule stays the same when it comes to cigarettes and coffee. As they raise your blood pressure, speed up the heart beat and increase brain activity, you will find yourself tossing and turning for hours after treating yourself” Wilkinson explains.
Get some fresh air
The following tips, used in Mediterranean countries, may sound simple but there can be a skill to getting this right in the midday sun:
“Close all of the curtains during the day to stop the heat getting in. Open the windows on the shady side of the house and close the windows on the sunny one. Open all the windows to get a thorough breeze one hour before going to bed but close them before you fall asleep – once it gets colder outside during the night your muscles might tense up and wake you up. Use an electric fan – It will move the air around your body and help sweat to evaporate. Place it in the corner of your bedroom. Make sure it’s not too close to your body as this can cause illness and allergies. You can also create your own air conditioner by placing a bowl with ice cubes in front of a fan and creating cooling mist” Barns suggests.
Keep it dark
“In the summer time it is often light outside until 11 pm. If you go to bed early, you might struggle with falling asleep. Daylight will affect the quality of your sleep so make your room as dark as possible or wear a sleep mask. This will help with melatonin production, as darkness will calm you down” Barns says.
Go for cotton
“Save your silky satin, silk or polyester sheets for colder days. Good quality 100 % cotton sheets are the best things to cover yourself with, as they will allow the air to circulate. Pure cotton is also the least irritating fabric for your skin and it will absorb sweat easier than nylon or polyester” suggests Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist (www.marilynglenville.com), (3) author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
“If it’s really hot you could also try changing your sheets for fresh ones – keep a spare one ready to grab for when you need it. You can also place your sheets in the freezer 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed. The feeling of a new, fresh sheet in the middle of a hot humid night can seem like a dream” adds Shona.
Gadgets and other small electronic appliances give off heat, even when turned off. You can not only reduce total heat in the house by keeping plugs out of sockets at night but you can also improve the quality of your sleep. “Switch to an analogue clock and a flat screen monitor and keep your wireless network router in a different room to your study or bedroom as blue light might cause not only headaches, fatigue and dizziness but also sleeplessness. Also, if you’re working in front of a computer screen for long periods make sure you stop using your phone, TV and iPad at least half an hour before going to bed” suggests Dr Glenville.