With hot weather in the forecast this week, many people are spending their nights tossing, turning and sweating.
That’s because a person’s body temperature naturally drops while they sleep, said Dr. Paul Teman.
“If it’s hot, it kind of goes against that normal pattern,” said Teman, a sleep specialist with Medsleep Calgary.
When Environment Canada issues a heat warning, overnight temperatures factor into that decision. In most parts of Alberta, a warning is made when there are two or more days of daytime temperatures that reach 29 C or warmer, and fall to 14 C or warmer overnight.
“It’s the overnight low temperatures that allow people to recover from those hot daytime temperatures,” said meteorologist Jesse Wagar. “If they’re not low enough, we don’t get enough recovery in between.”
Get lower down
Sadly, it isn’t possible to turn the dial down on the outdoor temperature. But experts say there are things you can do to sleep better when it’s hot out.
The lower to the ground you are, the cooler you are, according to Alicia Reschny, respiratory therapist and operations manager at Aveiro Sleep.
Sleeping in the basement is an obvious solution, but it may not be possible for people who live in apartments or condo buildings.
Putting your mattress directly on the floor, or on pallets, can also work in a pinch, said Reschny.
Shut blinds, open windows
Keeping your blinds closed while the sun is out can also help keep temperatures down — and blackout blinds are even better, said Reschny.
At night, opening the windows for airflow is a good idea, said Teman. You can even put a fan near the window to kick things up a notch.
While physical activity can help you sleep better, Teman said it’s a good idea to do it as early in the day as possible. Exercising too close to bedtime will raise the heart rate and body temperature, which makes it more difficult to sleep, he said.
“If you’re going to exercise in the evening when it cools down, I would try to do things that are really light,” he said, suggesting yoga or stretching.
What to wear
A gel ice pack wrapped in a towel, or a frozen gel ice mask, can feel soothing and help bring your body temperature down, Teman said. Reschny also suggested opting for breathable pajamas in a material like cotton or linen.
Stick to a routine
No matter what time of year it is, Reschny said it’s a good idea to stick to a nighttime routine. That means going to bed at the same time every day, and avoiding screens before bedtime.
Teman said it might be OK to take a supplement like melatonin on a short-term basis, though he doesn’t encourage making them a habit. He also discourages the use of sleeping pills.
Rest beats romance
If you have a partner who sleeps warm, Teman said now might be the right time to boot them out (temporarily).
“I think people tend to put a lot of weight on sleeping together as a couple,” he said.
“If it’s tight quarters and it’s hot, then you’re tossing and turning and disturbing each other.
“It doesn’t have to be forever, but short term, until everything cools down and you’re more comfortable, sleep separately.”