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02 Jul 2022

5 sleep mistakes to avoid in a heatwave

5 sleep mistakes to avoid in a heatwave

Britain could be hotter than Portugal, Jamaica and Costa Rica this week.

Experts say temperatures could climb as high as the mid-thirties, so we could be set for the hottest day of the year so far.

Warmer weather is always welcome – with many of us taking to parks and beaches to get our vitamin D hit – but it could also potentially wreak havoc on our sleep.

Worried about getting a good night’s kip? These are the sleep mistakes to avoid…

1. Your room is too hot

“A cooler temperature is optimal for sleep,”  advises Dr Rebecca Robbins, sleep scientist and sleep expert to Savoir Beds (savoirbeds.com), who says around 18C or 19C is best.

She explains: “Your body’s ability to regulate temperature is a big part of how it regulates sleep. During rapid eye movement 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.” She suggests your sleep might be disturbed if the temperature rises above 23.8C.

However, some people may struggle with pollen if they have their bedroom windows open at night.

Max Wiseberg, airborne allergens expert and creator of HayMax (haymax.biz), says: “Put pollen filter window screens over the windows and then you can open the window. If you do have air conditioning, as long as they’ve got good filters, that would help.” He also recommends using an allergen barrier balm around your nose and eyes.

2. You’re going to bed too late

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With lighter evenings and warmer weather, you might be spending more time in the garden, or having dinner a bit later.

But Robbins advises us to commit to a bedtime routine and stick to it. “Falling asleep at the same time and waking up at the same time is everything. It allows the body to work with – rather than fight – its natural circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock that controls the timings of every organ system and bodily process. If we stick to a schedule, our body learns when to expect sleep and wakefulness.”

3. You’re laying awake for hours in the night

Lying in bed feeling hot and bothered at 3am is one of life’s greatest frustrations. However, just hoping to drift back to sleep could be counterproductive.

“It’s something many of us were told to do – stay in bed if we wake up. But it’s actually one of the worst things that we can do if we’re struggling to sleep,” Robbins says.

Instead, she advises getting up after 15 minutes, keeping the lights low and doing some gentle yoga, reading or some non-stimulating tasks – like folding laundry – before returning to bed.

4. Your bedding isn’t up to the job

Your mattress and bedding also play an integral role in ensuring you get enough sleep.

“Sleep-related neurons are highly temperature-sensitive so an unsupportive mattress, or a mattress which retains heat, will limit the quality of your sleep,” says Robbins. “A breathable sleeping surface made from natural materials can help prevent you from overheating. Natural fibres are great for wicking away moisture – they are also breathable and allow airflow, keeping you cool during the warmer nights.”

And you might want to rethink your duvet, suggests sleep expert Patrick Ross from Nectar Sleep (nectarsleep.co.uk). “The last thing you want is to be tossing and turning inside a high tog duvet. Instead, make sure you pick up some linen or cotton bedding which is much more breathable and absorbent, to help keep those night sweats at bay.

“Alternatively, say goodbye to a duvet altogether, and take a lesson from our European friends by grabbing yourself a lightweight sheet that will keep you covered – but cool – at night.”

5. You’re dehydrated

Water Day Drink GIF by ZinZen - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ross says: “Dehydration can negatively affect how well you sleep at night, so staying properly hydrated is key. Don’t guzzle litres of water directly before bed, but keep drinking glasses of cool water throughout the day instead.

“Caffeine and alcohol also dehydrate the body and have a diuretic effect, so if you want to sleep well in the heat, both should be avoided. If you do wake up parched in the middle of the night, avoid the urge to down glass after glass. Take long sips of cool water until you feel satisfied instead.”

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