Help Your Body Lower Its Temperature
For the body to sleep, its temperature needs to be lower—a challenge when the outside temperature works against the body’s own process to achieve a lower temp. To help it along, try the following:
#1: Close all windows and curtains during the day to keep direct sunlight from heating things up.
#2: Open the windows at the end of the day to get some airflow.
#3: Shower with cool (but not cold) water before sleeping, and don’t dry off completely —exposing damp skin to the air helps with cooling.
#4: Sleep under a light blanket.
#5: Use textiles such as cotton, linen, or silk for blankets and pajamas — and avoid polyester.
#6: Turn on a fan, which takes less energy than an air conditioner.
#7: Put cold water in a hot-water bottle. You can cool it in the fridge during the days and bring it to bed with you at night.
Pay Attention to Light Exposure
Light and darkness have an enormous impact on the hormones that regulate our sleep. Darkness signals the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep. Serotonin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter and affects mood as well as sleep, is produced with daylight exposure. If you’re having trouble sleeping, exposure to the right combination of light and darkness can really help. Try the following:
#8: Go outside for at least 30 minutes during the first half of the day. #9: Check your light bulbs. In the evening our light sources should be indirect and contain warm, more reddish, light.
#10: Create a dark bedroom. Do you wake up too early because of the light? Consider thicker curtains or try a sleep mask. If daylight hours last for a long time where you live, be sure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
#11: Activate “night mode” on your laptop and smartphone. Bright screens help deter or slow down the production of melatonin, impacting our ability to fall asleep. If your device does not have “night mode,” look for apps that will do this for you. Alternatively, refrain from using devices within a couple of hours of falling asleep.
Exercise and Eat Well
Exercise promotes the production of the happiness hormone serotonin. If we exercise during the first half of the day, we sleep better at night. What we eat, and for some, when, also impacts our sleep. Try the following:
#12: Take a walk. Summer walks are great — and good for your sleep!
#13: Do not go to bed hungry or stuffed: Sometimes an early dinner with salad is enough — without caffeinated drinks of course!
#14: Limit your alcohol consumption. While having a drink may help you fall asleep faster, studies show alcohol hinders the quality of sleep.
Your Sleep Environment
If you don’t feel comfortable in your bed, chances are you won’t sleep well. Try the following to make your room more relaxing:
#15: Make your room a place you love. Keep it picked up and change your linens frequently. Invest in comfortable, light, and air-permeable bed linens. These feel-good and somewhat cool against the skin. Get a new picture. Or freshen things up with a bouquet of flowers.
#16: Try to create regularity in your sleep schedule. It may be tempting to stay up later when it’s bright out for longer periods of time. If you’re having trouble sleeping, though, this irregularity in your schedule can confuse your body’s inner clock, making sleep more difficult. It is better to choose fixed bedtimes/wake times and stick to them.
#17: If you’re in an area where mosquitoes are an issue: Have you ever thought about window nets, mosquito nets, or a spray for window frames?
Calm the Mind
Body and soul are closely connected. It is difficult for the body to relax when your mind is turning. Many who have trouble sleeping report experiencing heightened anxiety or rumination (looping thoughts that never reach a conclusion):
#18: Create a wind-down time. About an hour before bed, put away your work. At night, make the rule: Out of sight, out of mind. Save thinking about to-do lists for the morning or earlier in the day— especially when the heat is raging.
#19: Stay cool — even in your mind. Not falling asleep immediately or waking up throughout the night is not a game over. Don’t worry about the time, because our sleep works in cycles that each last about an hour and a half. Each sleep cycle, then, provides the body with an opportunity to refresh and rest. If you find yourself awake, when you want to be asleep, as difficult as it might be, try to focus on relaxing your body and let go of thoughts that don’t help.
#20: Consider a holistic approach to your sleep problems. While the heat may play a role in your troubles with sleep, other physical or psychological causes may be contributing. If you’re finding yourself stuck in rumination, having more trouble than usual concentrating throughout the day, experiencing less motivation or enjoyment of life as a whole, your difficulties with sleep may be one of the symptoms of a depressive episode that needs to be investigated. If this rings true for you, it is time to seek help from a professional medical or mental health practitioner.
By Dr. Samia Little Elk, sleep doctor and psychotherapist.