Sleep coach's top tips for surviving long, hot summer nights

Us trying to sleep during a heatwave. Photo: Getty
Us trying to sleep during a heatwave. Photo: Getty

As yet another sweltering heatwave sweeps across the country one thing is certain – unless you have air conditioning in your bedroom, sleeping is next to impossible.

A comfortable bedroom temperature should be between 17C and 19C, and sleep will be disrupted if the temperature climbs above 25C.

So with overnight temperatures barely dropping below that magical number recently, we decided to find out what we can do to help us get any kind of sleep during a heatwave.

Sleep expert Cheryl Fingleson, from The Sleep Coach, says it’s more difficult to sleep during the heat because our core body temperature and circadian rhythms are so closely linked.

“Melatonin is the magic hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycle by dropping our core body temperature,” Cheryl tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Sleepless woman suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea or stress. Tired and exhausted lady. Headache or migraine. Awake in the middle of the night. Frustrated person with problem. Alarm clock with time.
It's difficult to sleep if the temp is above 25C. Photo: Getty

“It is mainly produced when night falls, hence it is called the ‘Dracula hormone’. But this process is interrupted when your body temperature is too high.”

Unless you live in a double-brick basement – or Hobart – chances are you’re feeling the heat when you’d rather be sleeping.

So here are some of Cheryls top tips for heating the heat:

Be fan-savvy

Sleeping with just one fan running is for amateurs. Try adding another box fan into the mix, next to an open window to push hot air from your bedroom.

Then angle another fan on to your body, but not directly on your face so it doesn’t disturb you when you are in a lighter sleep phase.

Time to invest in more than one fan. Photo: Getty
Time to invest in more than one fan. Photo: Getty

Sleep solo

Sharing a bed with a partner or a furry friend means their body heat will transfer to you throughout the night. It might seem antisocial, but sleeping alone is cooler and less disruptive.

If that’s not possible, but you and your partner have different body temperatures and bedding needs, consider having separate covers: a sheet for them, a light summer doona for you, for example.

No more cuddles. Photo: Getty
No more cuddles. Photo: Getty


Electricity = more heat.

“I always tell my clients to have an electronic sunset and keep all screens out of the bed, but turning off electrical appliances around your house when they’re not in use will also help it keep cool,” says Cheryl.

Go low

Hot air rises, so consider moving your mattress to your bedroom floor for the summer months, or if you live in a multi-story home, to a lower room.

This might not be practical if you have an unwieldy large and heavy bed, but it’s an easy idea for older kids with smaller mattresses who find it hard to sleep in the heat.

Heat rises, so go low. Photo: Getty
Heat rises, so go low. Photo: Getty

Pack some ice

We use hot water bottles in winter, so why not try an ice pack in summer? They won’t stay cool all night but they will help you fend off the heat when you’re trying to get to sleep.

“If that doesn’t appeal, keep a bowl of iced water by your bed and a towel at the foot of your mattress. When you’re hot, dunk your toes in – this will help cool your whole body,” Cheryl explains.


“If you are really suffering in the heat and fans, ice packs, or other methods just aren’t cutting it, Cheryl suggests to try this: lay towels on your mattress then soak your sheets in cold water, ring out, and lay them across or around you.

Warning: you may look like a shrivelled prune when you wake up.

When all else fails: breathe

“Using mindfulness techniques, meditating or simply slowing your breathing can help you feel more in control of your body’s reaction to heat,” says Cheryl.

Yoga practitioners use a technique called sitali breathing to cool down, even calling it ‘all natural air-conditioning’. To try it, curl your tongue to form a tube and inhale slowly through your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat a dozen or so times.

Stay cool people.

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