Summary: Many people experience sleep problems during hotter weather. Researchers address ways in which we can help to get a good night’s sleep during hot weather.
With heatwaves occurring more frequently, investigators from the European Insomnia Network recently explored how outdoor nighttime temperature changes affect body temperature and sleep quality.
Their review of the literature, which is published in the Journal of Sleep Research, indicates that environmental temperatures outside the thermal comfort can strongly affect human sleep by disturbing the body’s ability to thermoregulate.
The authors note that certain groups—such as older adults, children, pregnant women, and individuals with psychiatric conditions—may be especially vulnerable to the sleep disruptive effects of heatwaves.
They also offer several coping methods adapted from elements of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
“It is important to keep the bedroom below 25 degrees Celsius (77°F ): 19 degrees Celsius (66°F ) is the ideal.
Keep a regular sleep schedule as much as possible, particularly for children. Image is in the public domain
“Sleep is known to become more shallow and less recuperating if the room temperature is too warm. Use a fan instead of air conditioning, if possible,” said corresponding author Ellemarije Altena, Associate Professor at the University of Bordeaux, in France.
“A lukewarm shower or foot bath before sleep can help to cool down and regulate body temperature during sleep. Plan physical activities only in the morning, when it is cooler, and drink a lot of water during the day to help the body cool down during the night.
“Alcohol both dehydrates and disrupts sleep, so limit those cold summer beers during heat waves. Keep a regular sleep schedule as much as possible, particularly for children.”
How to deal with sleep problems during heatwaves: practical recommendations from the European Insomnia Network
Heatwaves are occurring more frequently and are known to affect particularly night-time temperatures.
We review here literature on how night-time ambient temperature changes affect body temperature and sleep quality. We then discuss how these temperature effects impact particularly vulnerable populations such as older adults, children, pregnant women, and those with psychiatric conditions.
Several ways of dealing with sleep problems in the context of heatwaves are then suggested, adapted from elements of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, with more specific advice for vulnerable populations. By better dealing with sleep problems during heatwaves, general health effects of heatwaves may be more limited.
However, given the sparse literature, many links addressed in this review on sleep problems affected by temperature changes should be the focus of future research.