The arrival of summer means long lunch breaks in the park, barbecues with friends and balmy evenings in pub gardens enjoying the last of the sunshine. The only downside to the good weather? Sticky, restless and warm nights that leave you tossing and turning into the early hours.
Research suggests that the optimum temperature for sleep is around 17C, but if you’re not lucky enough to have air conditioning and can’t get your bedroom to a cool temperature, there’s no reason to continue to lie awake in discomfort.
We spoke to independent sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley to find some top tips for getting to sleep during the warmer months.
1. Opt for cotton
When it comes to summer nightwear, breathability is key. Dr Stanley says: “Wearing cotton pyjamas makes it easier for the skin to breathe and the air to circulate, compared to other fabrics such as silk or synthetic fibres. This in turn keeps you cooler and more comfortable, making it easier to sleep.”
2. Switch off
“Screen time should end ideally at least 25 minutes before sleep,” he advises. “Blue light is known to suppress the release of melatonin, which is the body’s signal that it’s time for sleep. Therefore, using screens before bed will disrupt sleep. Research shows that nearly one in five of us check social media before going to bed, so try and put your phone, laptop or tablet down.”
3. Stay hydrated
Unsurprisingly, drinking lots of cold water can help to keep your body cool. “Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is advisable for many reasons, and sleep is just one of those,” Dr Stanley says. “It’s worth taking a large glass to bed with you, but be careful not to drink too much before you go to sleep to avoid breaking your cycle and going back and forth to the toilet.”
4. Don’t overeat
For many of us summertime means barbecues and ice cream, and delicious though they may be, they are not a recipe for a good night’s sleep. “Heavy meals are out of the question when it comes to cooling down the body,” he says. “Eating a meal that’s rich in carbohydrates means that your body will take longer to digest them, creating a higher internal temperature. Stick to salads, fruits and other lighter options instead, and make sure you eat at least two hours before going to sleep to give your body enough time to burn off the food and rest.”
5. Repurpose a winter staple
A hot water bottle may seem like the last thing you need to help you get through the hot summer nights, but what if your hot water bottle became a cold water bottle? “Filling your hot water bottle with cold water and leaving it in the freezer for a while before placing between your bedsheets is a quick and extremely effective way to cool your bed down ensuring the sheets feel fresh and cool against your skin,” says Dr Stanley.
6. Lay off the booze
It can be all too easy when the sun is out to stay out that little bit longer, and indulge in one too many drinks (although it may seem like a great idea at the time). Dr Stanley warns: “Alcohol can leave you feeling dehydrated, which exacerbates many of the worst elements of overheating. Limiting your alcohol intake, and particularly not consuming alcohol right before bedtime are important to ensuring you can get a good night’s sleep.”
7. Keep it natural
“If you’re still struggling to settle down and get the sleep you need then you might find it beneficial to look at natural remedies to help you unwind before sleep,” he adds. “Lavender drops on the pillow, or an herbal sleep aid containing a blend of natural herbs such as valerian and passion flower, which have been traditionally used to help you unwind and aid sleep.”
Nytol’s Herbal Simply Sleep One-A-Night Tablets (£5.99, from Boots) contain 385mg of valerian root extract, which has been traditionally used for decades to induce sleep and promote calmness.
And if all else fails? Take solace in the fact that good weather rarely lasts here in the UK.