Sleep

Why You Can’t Sleep When It’s Hot Out — And, How to Stay Cool at Night

Plus, tricks to help you get your zzzs.

Having trouble getting a good night’s rest lately? You’re not alone. A temperature glitch robs millions of women of restful sleep — and Harvard researchers say that number triples in the hot summer months.

“Our body temperature is closely linked to our circadian rhythm,” says Cleveland Clinic sleep specialist Reena Mehra, M.D. Body temperature drops at night to induce sleep, but research suggests that if it’s too high, you fall short of restorative deep sleep. The result: exhaustion, brain fog and more.

When body temperature doesn’t dip low enough, it disrupts neurons in the brain that are key to sleep, says Harvard neurology professor Clifford Saper, M.D., Ph.D. And the hot flashes that affect 80 percent of women over 45 raise the risk that the body won’t cool down.

Tricks to Keep Cool

There’s no need to track your temperature at night, but the steps below can help you stay cool and sleep deep. Try them and say hello to more restful sleep!

Cool your bed. Sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., suggests slipping a frozen bottle of water in a sock and placing it between your legs while you sleep, or you can use a wearable ice pack (like Headache Hat, $39.99, Amazon) to cool your forehead, which will quickly cool the rest of the body. Also smart: Place a bowl of ice in front of a fan set on low at the head of your bed. Breus also recommends the chiliPAD cooling mattress pad (from $599, Amazon).

Breathe this way. The Ayurvedic breathing technique sitali is thought to cool the body and has been found to lower blood pressure and respiratory rate to induce sleep. Here’s how to do it: Close your eyes and breathe as usual for one minute. Next, form your lips into an O, stick out your tongue, and curl it into a U shape. Inhale through your mouth, focusing on the cooling sensation of the air on your tongue; close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Repeat for two to three minutes.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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