Is heat robbing you of a good night’s sleep?
“Even for those who do not suffer from a sleep disorder, getting to sleep can be more of a challenge in New England during the summer months,” said Dr. Karin Johnson, director of the Sleep Lab, Baystate Medical Center. “When the temperatures are warmer and the sun’s natural light may wake you earlier in the morning, that can become a problem for some. For those who keep the windows open, noisy cars outside or the sounds of nature like crickets chirping the night away can make getting to sleep even more of a challenge.”
There have been studies done on exactly what room temperatures are beneficial to our sleep. In general, many cite between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit as ideal with temperatures exceeding 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees Fahrenheit as disruptive to our much needed sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips to help both young and old sleep better in uncomfortable, hot weather, especially when air conditioning isn’t an option:
- Use a fan to keep the air circulating.
- Close the blinds to keep out sunlight. Also, keep the windows closed if the temperature outside is much hotter than inside. Open the windows at night if the temperature is cooler outside than in your house.
- Heat rises. So, sleep downstairs in the blistering heat.
- If you do not have an air conditioner, and fans just aren’t doing the trick, consider asking family or friends who do have an air conditioner if you can stay with them for a few nights.
- Other options include sleeping outdoors under protection for mosquitoes and other insects, or during an extreme heat wave, some communities may open cooling centers in schools or public places that are air-conditioned.
- Water is a great cooling agent and taking a cold shower or bath before bed may help.
- Wear light bedclothes and light pajamas. There are pajamas made from materials that wick away sweat, meaning the fabric pulls moisture from the body to the exterior of the clothing item where it can evaporate more easily.
Additional tips to consider:
- Keep a mist bottle filled with water near the bed (place some ice in it to keep it cold longer) and when waking during the night, spritz your face and neck to help cool down.
- Before going to bed, place your bed sheets and pillow cases in the freezer for about 30 minutes, then place them back on your bed and hit the sack immediately. Hopefully, you will fall asleep before they lose their chill.
- Place a tray of ice cubes, or a bowl topped off with ice, in front of a fan to help cool the air. What happens is that the breeze generated by the fan will pick up the cold water from the surface of the ice cubes and turn it into a comfortable, cooling mist.
Dr. Johnson noted that for those with sleep apnea and treating it, for example, with a CPAP machine may get more water in the tubing if their air conditioner is cooling down the air around them.
“This can cause condensation which can be addressed by using heated tubing or an insulation sleeve,” she said.
The Baystate sleep specialist also emphasized that if you are not sleeping well at night during the very hot and humid days, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding naps is especially important.
The importance of sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is important to your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
“Who hasn’t heard someone utter at one time or another: ‘I need my body-building sleep?’ It’s true. While you are getting a good night’s sleep, your body repairs and detoxifies itself. For example, sleep is when the body lets the heart rest and gives the body time to repair and grow. It is also when we process memories and learning,” Dr. Johnson said.
“For children and teens, sleep is especially important to maintain adequate growth and development,” added pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Anthony Jackson of Baystate Children’s Hospital, who also serves as medical director of Baystate’s Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of good quality sleep nightly. Teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night; school-aged children 10 hours, preschoolers 11-12 hours, and newborns usually sleep between 16-18 hours a day.
Sleep deprivation can adversely affect an individual’s health and performance, as well as jeopardize their safety and the safety of others. A sleep-deprived person is likely to have less energy, difficulty concentrating, make poor decisions and increase errors. They may even fall asleep during work, in class, or while driving. Other effects of sleep deprivation include irritability, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, as well as such health risks as high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, and diabetes.
Baystate Medical Center’s Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center provides the latest high-technology testing and diagnosis for all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleepwalking.