Socks in the fridge? Ice under your fan? Bed linen in the freezer? As forecasters predict Britain’s hottest night ever… how DO you sleep in a heatwave?

  • Temperatures in the UK are set to hit 43C (109F) as a heatwave sweeps nation
  • Dr. David Lee explained why it is so difficult to drift off to sleep in the hot weather
  • Sammy Margo offered tips on how to make sure you still get a good night’s sleep 

As Britons deal with an ‘extreme’ Spanish heatwave, many will be worried about getting a good night’s sleep. 

62 per cent of people struggle to sleep during warmer weather, according to a survey conducted by Philips in 2019. 

Tossing and turning while a fan blares loudly in our ears isn’t exactly the rhythmic lullaby that helps us drift off into a restful slumber – but there are lots of ways to aid your sleep cycle.

Forecasters have predicted a record-shattering 43C (109F) tomorrow, with the Met Office warning of ‘a very serious situation’ as it issued its first red warning for extreme heat.

A quick Google search for ‘how to keep sleep in a heatwave’ will bring up a range of weird and wonderful measures, including putting your socks in the fridge, placing ice under your fan and putting your bed linen in the freezer. But do any of these methods actually work? 

Dr. David Lee, clinical director at Sleep Unlimited, explained why it’s so difficult to sleep in the hot weather, saying: ‘When you get tired at night you feel a bit chilly. It’s actually a drop in body temperature of about one degree.  That drop is a signal to get cosy in your “nest” in order to get off to sleep.’ 

Of course, when the outside environment is so hot, it’s more difficult to get that temperature drop. Dr. Lee said: ‘That’s why you struggle when there’s a big shift in temperature.’ 

Sammy Margo, a sleep expert at Dreams, added that the heat will disrupt the release of melatonin – the ‘sleep hormone’ that makes us feel tired. 

Thankfully, the MailOnline has found foolproof ways to help you drift off to sleep – and you’ll be please to know, they don’t require splashing out on air con or a fan: 

Put your socks in the fridge:

Brits can lower their body temperature by cooling down their feet or the crown of their head.

Experts have recommended putting socks in the fridge to cool them down so Britons can wear them to bed and feel the instant cooling benefits.

Place ice under your fan

One of the most common pieces of advice is to place a tray or bowl of ice – or an old bottle filled with frozen water – in front of a fan to cool the air down even more. 

It counteracts the hot air an allows for a concentrated blast of cooler air to help your drift off.

Bed linen in the freezer

Britons have also been advised to place their bed linen into the fridge or freezer before bed to allow it to cool before being slept in. 

Although it is advised to sleep in cotton bedding because it allows your skin to breathe better and your pores don’t get clogged – experts have said by placing your bedding in the freezer for 10 minutes, the cool feeling will help you seamlessly drift off.

Stay hydrated – but not too much 

We all know it’s important to drink plenty of water when the weather heats up, but aside from the obvious benefits, Sammy notes it’s important for sleeping too.

She said: ‘Make sure that you maintain higher than usual hydration levels throughout the day, because dehydration can interfere with sleep.

‘Be careful with your alcohol intake because this can cause dehydration as well as prevent you from getting into the deeper stages of sleep.’

Dr. Lee also stressed the importance of staying hydrated – but added it’s important to know when to stop drinking water.

He said: ‘Try to avoid over-drinking in the two hours before bed because if you have a lot of liquid in your bladder this can cause additional sleep disturbance due to visiting the bathroom during the night.’

Instead, he suggested drinking earlier in the day to keep hydrated.


Dr. David Lee, clinical director at Sleep Unlimited, said the body naturally cools down by about one degree when you begin to feel tired – which is why the hot weather disrupts your natural sleep cycle. He added this is also the case for perimenopausal women who suffer from hot flushes

Take a shower before bedtime 

Four hot weather hacks from The Sleep Charity 

1. If you’ve got an attic, try opening the hatch during the day. The hot air will rise  and escape outside.

2. Put a tray, bowl of ice or an old bottle filled with frozen water in front of a fan to cool the air down even more.

3. Get out your hot water bottle and fill it with ice cold water for bedtime. 

4. Lower your body temperature by cooling down your feet. Try putting socks in the fridge and wearing them to bed.  

 

Although it might seem like a good idea to tire yourself out before going to bed by doing some exercise, it’s actually counter-intuitive, according to Sammy.

She said: ‘Avoid exercise close to bedtime as this will increase your temperature.

‘Ideally exercise in the morning – otherwise give your body plenty of time to cool down.’

Instead of going for a run before bed, which will only make you feel hotter, Sammy suggests a clever idea to trick your body into cooling itself down. 

If you can bear it in a heatwave, it’s best to jump into the shower shortly before you go to bed. 

When you step out of the shower (or bath, if you’d prefer), the temperature outside the water will be cooler, helping your body to cool down. 

Sleep naked or wear 100% cotton pyjamas 

It might sound obvious to advise sleeping with less clothing on during a heatwave, but according to the experts, it really is among the best advice out there.

Ideally, it’s best to sleep naked, but for those of us who want to preserve our modesty there are a few other options.

Sammy recommends wearing 100% cotton pyjamas, or pyjamas made with moisture wicking material.

If you’re willing to spend good money on getting a good sleep in the heat, she says it’s best to look into cooling mattress toppers.

And if you’re feeling really fancy, you could even invest in cooling silk pillowcases and bedsheets. 

Close your curtains

Australian native Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts took to Twitter to post her go-to methods for keeping cool during the hot summer months.

She advised Britons to ‘close your curtains all the way during the entire day’ to keep rooms in your home in the shade throughout the day.

Dr Mackin added: You can open them at night, when you will also (if possible) open your windows the whole way and direct any fans to make a though breeze.’

Australian native Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts took to Twitter to post her go-to methods of keeping cool during the summer months (stock image)

Unplug your chargers 

While most of us know that big, powerful electronics like TVs and computers generate a lot of heat, you might not think to unplug smaller appliances. 

Lamps, kettles, irons and even chargers can generate a lot of heat if they see heavy use. 

In 2020, researchers from ZDNet put a wireless charger to the test, using a thermal camera to study how hot it was, both in and out of use. 

They found that when an iPhone 11 Pro Max was placed on the wireless charger, the device reached 32°C, while the surrounding air hit 20°C. 

‘If you want the charging to be cooler, remove any cases, don’t charge the phone in direct blazing sunlight, and keep the pad on a hard surface (not on blankets or anything that might block the air holes),’ they advised. 

While most of us know that big, powerful electronics like TVs and computers generate a lot of heat, you might not think to unplug smaller applicances like chargers

Ditch the booze

You might be tempted to head for your nearest pub garden during the heatwave, but if you do, try to lay off the booze. 

Alcohol is a diuretic that causes you to urinate more, and can leave you severely dehydrated. 

‘Alcohol makes us pee more and more frequently, and fluid leaving our bodies at this rate can lead to dehydration if not replaced,’ Drink Aware explains.

‘It is important to replace lost fluid by drinking water if we choose to drink alcohol.

‘The effects of dehydration include feeling thirsty, dizzy, lightheaded and tired, experiencing a dry mouth and lips and dark yellow and strong-smelling pee.’

Alcohol also causes the blood vessels in your skin to dilate, making you feel hotter. 

Don’t open all windows

It may sound counterintuitive, but research suggests that you shouldn’t open all the windows to keep your house cool. 

Hot air rises, which means sunny upstairs rooms will be warmer than those that are downstairs in the shade – setting up a pressure difference. 

By opening windows in these rooms, you can create a strategic breeze that draws in cool air from downstairs, and forces warm air out of the house through the sunny upstairs rooms. 

The idea of breathing yourself cooler may sound ridiculous, but seasoned yoga experts swear by a technique called shitali pranayama

Roll your tongue and breathe

The idea of breathing yourself cooler may sound ridiculous, but seasoned yoga experts swear by a technique called shitali pranayama. 

Speaking to Live Science, Meera Watts, founder of Siddhi Yoga, explained how the technique can cool your body down within minutes. 

‘It starts with sitting in a comfortable position with the back straight and keeping the hands on the knees,’ she explained.

What are Britain’s ten hottest days on record? 

1)   38.7C – July 25, 2019

2)   38.5C – August 10, 2003

3)   37.8C – July 31, 2020

4)   37.1C – August 3, 1990

=5)  36.7C – July 1, 2015

=5)  36.7C – August 9, 1911

7)   36.6C – August 2, 1990

8)   36.5C – July 19, 2006

=9)  36.4C – August 7, 2020

=9)  36.4C – August 6, 2003

‘Taking out the tongue and folding it on the sides like a U shape. You’ll have to inhale through your tongue in this tube position and exhale with your nostrils. 

To feel the cooling sensation, repeat it 5-8 times which will take no more than a few minutes.’ 

Perfect your sleeping position 

Whether you’re sleeping alone or sharing a bed, lying on your back is far cooler than sleeping in a ball.

If you’re sleeping with a partner, then give each other space so that you’re not sharing body heat. Consider creating a barrier with a sheet so that you keep to your own sides.  

Using separate single duvets or sheets to stop trapping the air in can help too. 

How can I get to sleep when my bedroom feels like a sauna?

Getting to sleep during a heatwave can seem like an impossible task, particularly when you don’t have access to air conditioning – but there are steps you can take to get a good night’s sleep.

Julie Gooderick, an ‘extreme environments’ expert at the University of Brighton, says it is key to set your environment before sleeping.

The ideal room temperature for sleeping is around 18-21C, she says, and to avoid your bedroom becoming too hot she advises using fans, opening windows at night, and keeping curtains closed during the day.

She also advises using a thin sheet instead of your regular duvet, avoiding napping during the day, and cooling your body down as much as possible – this can be done using cooling pads, a cold shower, or even putting your pyjamas in the freezer a few hours before bedtime.

Sammy’s top tips for how to get to sleep in a heatwave 

1. Your bedroom should be as cool as possible – you will want the bedroom to be somewhere between 16-18C (60-64F) which is the optimum temperature for sleeping, as it encourages the release of melatonin, the sleepy hormone, so try to keep the curtains or blinds closed during the day to keep the room as cool as possible. If you have air conditioning, cool the room before you enter it. You may have to relocate your bedroom to a cooler part of your home if possible

2. Having a warm shower or bath before bedtime tricks your body into cooling as when you get out of the warm bath/shower the surrounding temperature is cooler and you will be cooled down which will help with the release of melatonin

3. Sleep in the nude with just a top sheet. Try moisture wicking bed sheets or pyjamas or 100 percent cotton pyjamas

4. Try a cooling mattress topper or even a wool duvet which is heat self-regulating, meaning it can keep you cool in the heat

5. If you sleep with a partner, create a barrier between you and them to give each other more space. Ideally the bigger the bed/mattress the better and separate single duvets to stop trapping the air in can help

6. Try a cooling try a silk pillowcase and/or bed sheets. They are a little more expensive but definitely worth the price tag. These will not only help to keep your partner cool but also look and feel great.

7. Think about your sleep position. Lying on your back is far cooler than sleeping in a ball 

8. Keep a glass of iced water by your bedside and use a cool flannel where necessary

9. When on holiday, keep after-sun or moisturiser in the fridge so it’s cool and soothing when you apply it before bed

 

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