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How To Get A Good Night Sleep When It's So Damn Hot

It's enough to keep you up at night.

It's been pretty hot lately ... did you know?

After hitting hottest night ever on record (well, in Sydney, at least) earlier this month, we've been bearing the brunt of rising temperatures and extreme weather warnings -- and it seems like we're in for little relief.

School students across the state sweated through their first day back at school with scorching temperatures reaching 34.3 degrees in the city and 43.2 degrees in Richmond around lunchtime.

Which means we're in for yet another night of hovering high temperatures -- and a less than optimal night's sleep.

So, what can we do about it?

Sleep and body temperature are a delicate dance.

Before we get to those tips and tricks, a bit of background on why these high temperatures are keeping you up at night.

Sleep and body temperature are connected via 'thermoregulation' -- or the process that allows us to maintain our core body temperature. And it is one that is synced with our sleep-wake cycle.

"Part of the propensity for sleepiness is when our core body temperature drops at night. But this is delayed and is much less likely to occur when it rises," Dr Moira Junge, sleep psychologist and spokesperson for The Sleep Health Foundation told The Huffington Post Australia.

It's important to have an open mindset about hot nights. Don't dread them.

This delicate balance relies on a complex process that permits our heated blood to lose heat through our skin. And this is where the sleep hormone melatonin comes in.

"As our melatonin rises, it has a clear reciprocal relationship with body temperature," Junge said. "When our melatonin is at its peak is a couple of hours before bed and this is when our body temperature is at its lowest."

Add to this our changing self-regulation throughout various sleep stages -- and environmental heat disturbing this entire process and you've got yourself a complex web that can be hard to understand even at the best of times (let alone during said hot nights).

So, how can we sleep better (aside from blasting the air con)?

Avoid strenuous activity in the hours before bed-time.

We're talking late night workouts. Because even though the thought of an air-conditioned gym sesh later at night might sound like a good idea, it will make it harder for your body temperature to fall during sleep.

"Those couple of hours before bed are when our body temperature is usually at its lowest. We discourage people from getting their body temperature up too high into the evening," Junge said.

Anticipate the hot weather.

"Make sure the room that you sleep in hasn't had direct sunlight all day," Junge said.

Stay hydrated.

Sweating is one way that the body cools itself down -- but you need to be hydrated to let this work.

"Hydration is key -- both during the day and during the night," Junge said.

Keep some close.
domin_domin via Getty Images
Keep some close.

Be loose and light.

We're talking what you wear to bed -- and what you dress your bed with.

"When you are hot, you tend to have the comfort of a partner or a blanket to wrap around, and this will only increase your body temperature further.

"Wear light clothing and use minimal bed clothing," Junge said. "The outside temperature usually drops just before dawn -- as does our body temperature. When that happens, it is nice to have a light sheet at the ready."

Fans are your best friend.

"Ensure some kind of ventilation, whether that be a positioned fan or keeping some windows open during the night -- depending on just how hot it is!" Junge said.

"A cold shower just before bed or a wet cloth on your face or forehead can also keep your body temperature down."

Stretch out.
Daly and Newton
Stretch out.

Let your feet dangle.

When it comes to thermoregulation, our peripherals play a vital role in allowing heated blood from the central body to lose heat.

"Our hands and feet are cooler than the rest of the body, so keep them as cool as possible," Junge said.

"It's all about reducing contact with another person or surface in order to maximise the opportunity to reduce body heat. Having your legs or fingers dangling off the end can be useful so that they are cooling in the air rather than being trapped with the heat from contact with the mattress."

And spread those limbs.

"When we're cold, we shiver and we hold ourselves tight. The opposite occurs when we're hot -- we want to spread our and let our body heat leave,'" Junge said.

Don't be alarmed.

This could quite possibly be the most important lesson of all.

People tend to get alarmed when they think they are going to lose sleep - and this only increases their anxieties.

"I would discourage anyone from sleeping in a way that doesn't feel natural or comfortable. It's important to do whatever it takes to maximise your propensity for sleep in difficult conditions," Junge said.

"People tend to get alarmed when they think they are going to lose sleep - and this only increases their anxieties. It's important to reassure people that a short term stint of sleep deprivation is not going to be detrimental long term.

"It's important to have an open mindset about hot nights. Don't dread them."

Explore the benefits of napping.

Only when you can, of course. But a quick catch up thrive during the day can do wonders.


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