Ah, summer. It’s a lovely time of year full of friends, fun, and long hours basking in the sun. It’s a season many of us yearn for during those drawn out winter months. But there is one downside to the summer heat – it can be incredibly hard to sleep in!
Our sleep is highly regulated by temperature and those high temperatures we enjoy during the daytime often cause us major problems at night (1). In one survey conducted on 765,000 respondents in the U.S., it was found that an increase in night-time temperatures resulted in more self-reported nights of insufficient sleep (1).
While you do have the option of using an air conditioner to solve the problem of being too hot at night, you may want to think twice about using it regularly. Air conditioners have a negative impact on both your wallet and the environment. In the U.S. alone, air conditioners cost homeowners $29 billion per year and release about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air (2). Luckily, there are a number of affordable alternatives you can use to cool down and get a better sleep!
What Happens If You Don’t Get a Good Sleep?
Getting a poor night’s rest is a bigger deal than you may think. Sleep is essential for the healthy functioning of your body and when you get too little of it, it increases your susceptibility to chronic illnesses because your immune system becomes compromised. (1). Sleep deprivation also affects your psychological and cognitive functioning as it inhibits your ability to consolidate new knowledge, remove waste from your brain, and repair skeletal muscles (1). It’s safe to say pretty much every cell in your body is negatively affected by sleep depravation.
Why We Have Trouble in The Heat
The lack of sleep you experience in hotter temperatures can be attributed to the fact that a decreased core body temperature is an important signal for sleep onset (1). But when you’re exposed to higher temperatures, it can prevent your core body heat from shedding, which results in poor sleep (1).
In addition to your body not getting its proper sleep signal, your circadian rhythms, biological processes that automatically follow a 24-hour clock, are also being altered (1). Once your core body temperature drops to induce sleep, it remains low throughout the night then rises again before waking up (1). When temperatures are too high, your circadian rhythms and thermoregulation abilities are disrupted, causing a lack of sleep (1).
So what is the solution for your restless summer slumbers? Well, the good news is that our ancestors were able to sleep without air conditioning, which means we can too! In fact, there are plenty of things you can do this summer to comfortably sleep in heat without running up your electricity bill!
7 Ways to Keep Cool
Good old-fashioned fans are a great way to combat sleepless summer nights. Fans are a form of ventilation, which is considered to be the most energy-efficient and least expensive way to cool a home (3). Fans create a wind chill effect by circulating air in a room, making for a more comfortable environment (3). Turn on a fan before you sleep to get the full effect of this simple invention.
2. Icy Fan Hack
If fans don’t cool you down as much as you’d like, try the icy fan hack! It’s super simple – just place a bowl of ice in front of your fan and you’ll have a breezy, cool room in no time (4).
3. House Fans
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Even in the hottest climates, a whole house fan can meet your cooling needs (3). Whole house fans work by pulling air in through windows, then exhausting it through your home’s roof and attic (3). After having a professional install your whole house fan, you won’t have to think about this inexpensive cooling system for a long, long time, but you’ll definitely feel it (3)!
4. Proper Ventilation
Even just cracking open a window will make a big difference when it comes to ambient temperatures. Open windows create a cross-wise breeze and improve the efficacy of fans (3). A little of fresh air never hurt anyone!
5. Mints to the Rescue
Whip together witch hazel, distilled water, lavender essential oil, and peppermint essential oil for a cooling minty spray (5). Peppermint oil contains menthol, which naturally has powerful cooling properties (5). Keep this DIY peppermint spray in the refrigerator then spray it on your feet, the back of your neck, and your chest for a cool sensation that’s sure to put you to sleep (5)!
If you’re someone who enjoys a cup of tea, drink some peppermint or spearmint tea before bed and throughout the day to cool down. Although it sounds counterintuitive to drink something hot when you’re trying to cool down, the sweat you produce when consuming a hot beverage actually releases your body heat when it evaporates (6).
6. Don’t Eat Large Meals Close to Bedtime
Stay away from those big grilled summer meals if you want a better night’s rest. Smaller dinners are easier to digest and don’t produce the same amount of heat that larger meals do. After a meal, blood flow is diverted from our muscles to the digestive system, this could lead to a slight, but temporary increase in body temperature (7). In turn, it can effect how well we fall asleep. Try to eat less before bed or eat 2-3 hours before you fall asleep.
7. Warming Up to Cool Down: Bathing Before Bed
A shower or bath before bed may improve your sleep. A study conducted in moderate temperatures concluded that elderly participants did report an enhanced quality of sleep when they bathed before bed (8). This is because a warm shower temporarily raises your temperature and once you step out of the hot bathroom, your temperature will drop, preparing your body for sleep (9). If you prefer a cool shower you can do that too, but the results will be temporary and limited to the time you are bathing (10).
Don’t let a lack of sleep ruin your summer fun. There are a bunch of things you can do to keep cool on a budget and get your shuteye in! Read this next to learn more tips on how to stay cool this summer.
(1) Obradovich, N., Migliorini, R., Mednick, S.C., Fowler, J.H. (2017, May). Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in changing climate. Sci Adv., 3 (5). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5446217/
(2) Air Conditioning. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-cooling-systems/air-conditioning
(3) Energy Saver 101: Everything You Need to Know About Home Cooling. (2014, June 13). Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-cooling
(4) Williford, T. (2011, June 24). Hack A Temporary Air Conditioner for Hot Summer Nights. Retrieved from https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/hack-a-temporary-air-condition-149919
(5) Peppermint Cooling Spray (Air Conditioning In A Bottle). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://oneessentialcommunity.com/homemade-peppermint-cooling-spray/
(6) Covington, L. (2013, July 15). Cooling Hot Teas: How to Beat the Heat with a Warm Mug. Retrieved from https://thedailytea.com/wellness/cooling-hot-teas-how-to-beat-the-heat-with-a-warm-mug/
(7) Waaler, B.A., Toska, K. (1999, February). Digestive system’s large and changing needs of blood supply. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, 119 (5). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10095388
(8) Kanda, K., Tochihara, Y., Ohnaka, T. (1999, July). Bathing before sleep in the young and in the elderly. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol, 80 (2). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10408315
(9) Mann, J. (2018, April 6). Take a Shower Before Bed to Help You Sleep Better. Retrieved from https://sleepjunkies.com/tips/warm-shower-helps-you-sleep-better/
(10) Taylor, J. (2015, August 6). 21 Genius Natural Tricks to Stay Cool This Summer Without AC. Retrieved from http://www.naturallivingideas.com/stay-cool/
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