4 mistakes everyone makes when trying to sleep in the heat

Don't be that person

man asleep in a fridge with door open
(Image credit: Getty)

It's heatwave 2.0 in the UK, which is super news if you've been craving a barbecue, but not so great if you're in need of a good night's sleep. If your room feels like an oven, dropping off – and staying asleep through the night – is a particular challenge. Especially if you haven't yet invested in one of the best fans to take things down a few degrees. (For the avoidance of doubt, you definitely shouldn't try and get into your fridge, like our hero image man. Quite aside from the inherent dangers, it'll cost you a fortune at today's energy prices.)

According to Dr Rebecca Robbins a Sleep Scientist and in-house expert at Savoir Beds, a relatively cool temperature is best for sleep. 18 or 19°C is ideal, while temperatures of 23.8°C (75°F)  might even cause you to wake up. "Your body's ability to regulate temperature is a big part of how it regulates sleep," she explains. "During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the brain's temperature regulating cells switch off and your temperature is impacted by your surroundings. If your bedroom is too warm and stuffy or your sleeping surface is unable to breathe and disperse moisture, you may begin to sweat and overheat at this stage. Effectively, your body temperate may start to rise and disturb your sleep.” 

So what can you do to avoid a restless, sweaty night? To start with, make sure your bed isn't causing the problem. Old or cheap memory foams can trap heat, while today's best mattress brands are much more aware of the issue and have come up with advancements in materials to regulate temperature more effectively. However, there are plenty of quicker tricks you can employ to help keep you cool at night. There's an art to how to sleep when it's hot, and not all of it is wholly intuitive. Here are 3 mistakes to avoid when trying to sleep in warm weather. 

1. Taking a cold shower before bed

It seems counterintuitive, but resist the urge to try and cool yourself down with a cold shower before bed. "Taking a cold shower or bath can actually be counterproductive as when our body is submerged in extremely cold conditions it tries to regulate our core temperature," says Drench (opens in new tab)'s Dominic Lees-Bell. "This means you could actually feel hotter than you did before you tried to cool down." 

In fact – stick with us – you want to do the opposite. Multiple sources say that the best tactic is to take a hot bath before bed. This stimulates the body's thermoregulatory system, increasing bloodflow throughout our body and helping release heat and decrease body temperature.

2. Napping in the sun

Warm weather can make you feel lethargic, because your body is using energy to regulate your internal temperature. It can be tempting to have a quick doze while you're chilling out on your deckchair. Do not do this. It'll only make things more challenging when it comes to falling asleep at night – save your sleepiness for bedtime.

3. Abandoning your bedtime routine

As the evenings get longer and warmer, the temptation is to 'make the most of it' by staying up later and eating later, but this is a bad idea, warns Rebecca. "Falling asleep at the same time and waking up at the same time is everything. The reason is that it allows the body to work with – rather than fight – its natural circadian rhythm, our body's internal 24-hour clock that controls the timings of every organ system and bodily process," she explains. "If we stick to a schedule, our body learns when to expect sleep and wakefulness. Any more than an hour's difference to your normal schedule and you will actually impose jetlag-like symptoms on your brain."

4. Opening your windows in the day

While intuition might tell you to open up your house as much as possible during the day, Theresa Schnorbach – Sleep Expert at Emma; the bed brand behind the best memory foam mattress, by our reckoning – recommends keeping the curtains and windows closed during the day. This theoretically will mean your room is cooler when the evening sets in. When the sun starts to go down and temperatures outside drop, that's your cue to fling open your bedroom windows.

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.