Article Image

Sleeping in A Heatwave: Myths Exposed

Hayley Dawes
13 June 2023

If you’re struggling to sleep during the ongoing heatwave, you’re not alone. Sweaty, sleepless nights are not the one, and the more you toss and turn, the hotter you get. We’ve all been there.

Heatwaves are often very welcome in the UK, with crowds heading to the parks to soak up the sun and make the most of the summer weather before the inevitable showers. But once the sun goes down and we head home from a day out, we’re suddenly longing for Britain’s gloomy weather to return. Sleeping when it’s hot can be miserable, especially in the UK where most homes are built to keep the heat in. 

The UK’s heatwave is in full swing, and we are already losing a serious amount of sleep. This scorching weather is perfect for your park picnic, but it doesn’t make for the most comfortable night’s sleep. The temperature of your room and your body have a significant impact on your sleep, so getting these two things right is worth the effort. Without sleep we’re pretty much unable to do anything.

So how do we ensure a restful night under these conditions? There’s no shortage of weird and wonderful heatwave hacks out there but which ones truly work? It’s worth trying even the ones you might think sound far-fetched as they could very well be your ticket to a good, cool night’s sleep.

Whether you’re at home, in the office or out and about, there are some tips and tricks to help you cool down in the hot weather. Research has now broken down the various myths, so we can understand what will keep us cool in the hot weather.

Myth 1: Keep all your windows and curtains closed

It’s natural on a hot day to keep all your windows and doors open. However, the best thing to do is to keep your windows shut and your curtains drawn all day, as when the sun comes up throughout the day it heats the inside of your house. As the sun sets, open your curtains and windows so you can feel the evening breeze, which will help you sleep. 

Verdict: True

Myth 2: Drink hot tea to cool down

Staying hydrated is essential during a heatwave. When thermosensors in the mouth and throat detect heat, the brain activates a sweating response. The sweat then absorbs body heat and evaporates it into the air. So drinking tea in a summer dress or short-sleeved shirt may help you cool down slightly.

Verdict: True

Myth 3: Have a hot curry

Several foods can have a cooling effect, and it seems one of them is chilli. It might appear counterintuitive, but it makes sense, considering many of the world’s spiciest cuisines are found in warm climates. Chilli contains a chemical called capsaicin. When eaten it heats up the body and you begin to sweat. The evaporation of this sweat removes heat from the body.

Verdict: True

Myth 4: Stay out of the sun

It’s sensible to be cautious in the sun, but a 15-minute walk exposing your hands, face and arms to the sun will give you a great amount of vitamin D to keep your levels topped up throughout the rest of the year.

Verdict: False 

Myth 5: Have a cool beer tonight

Drinking too much alcohol in a heatwave is just about the worst thing you can do. On a cold day, alcohol is dehydrating, but on a hot day the effects are tenfold. You’re more likely to get burnt because drinking keeps people rooted to a spot. Drink moderately and have a glass of water before, in between, and after each drink.

Whilst alcohol can make you fall asleep due to its sedative properties and, therefore, allow you to fall asleep quickly, what’s not common knowledge is that your sleep quality is considerably lower after consuming alcohol. You won’t feel recharged the following morning and will suffer from excessive sleepiness throughout the day. So, if you do decide to drink (which is fair!), make sure to stop drinking at least four hours before your bedtime so it’s mostly worn off by the time you drift off. 

Verdict: False 

Myth 6: Have a cold shower before bed

Although it may seem counterproductive, taking a lukewarm shower will help you stay cooler. Cold water can make our body temperatures rise, meaning you’ll feel warm going to bed. It’s tempting to blast yourself under a cold shower just before bed, but it’s far better to have a tepid bath or shower, so your body doesn’t try to warm itself up.

Verdict: False

Myth 7: Put your pillow in the freezer

Around an hour before you want to go to bed, just put your pillowcase in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for about 40 minutes. Pop it on just before bed, and it will feel lovely and cool on your skin.

Verdict: True

Myth 8: Sleep naked

If you’re wearing natural fibres, like cotton, then you’ll feel cooler in the night than if you were naked because the cotton will wick away sweat form your skin. However, anything man-made or synthetic will keep heat next to your skin. Similarly, make sure your bedsheets are made from cotton, rather than manmade fabrics such as nylon.

Verdict: Inconclusive

Myth 9: Don’t exercise

Exercising in extreme heat places extra stress on the body and can be dangerous. But you should understand how to recognise symptoms and know your limits. Warning signs include cramps, nausea, excessive sweating, dizziness, increased heart rate and visual problems. Here are some extra tips:

  • Know your fitness level. If you are new to working out, take added care.
  • Hydration is key. Drink regularly, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Wear the right gear. Keep it lightweight and loose and choose a material that promotes evaporation. Dark colours, which absorb heat, are best avoided.
  • Cover up with a hat and wear plenty of sunscreen. Sunburn will hamper your body’s ability to cool down.
  • Exercise early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat.

Verdict: False