Ah, summer! Endless events, backyard parties, picnics in the park, baseball games, festivals, family reunions, road trips, and new adventures. A time to breathe in the full joy and pleasure of basking in the sun.
But summer has a gnarly side too.
The real dog days, when intense heat makes it impossible to sit comfortably, let alone sleep through the night.
Without sleep, our hormones get out of whack which affects emotions, metabolism, digestion, sex drive, relationships, and general outlook.
Trouble sleeping stimulates a surge of stress hormones that over time depresses the immune system and hormonal balance, increases weight gain, decreases concentration, lowers efficiency, increases irritability, and decreases motivation.
We need sleep to restore us. It is hands down the most effective way for the body to metabolize excess stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals, and to replenish the adrenal glands.
Okay, so how do you get any sleep during the sweaty, hot, sticky nights of Summer?
BECOME A VAMPIRE – Kinda
Keep the lighting moody and dark. Turn off the lights and keep the blinds closed. A sun-drenched room can turn into an oven during the summertime. Blocking out sunshine and heat means a cooler house when it’s time to sleep. During the daytime use blinds to keep out sunlight and keep the windows closed. At night, if the temperature is less outside than inside, open your windows.
All light bulbs (even enviro-friendly ones) give off heat. Keep rooms cool after dark by using lights minimally or not at all (break out some candles!).
BODY HEAT + GOING SOLO
Eat a small meal. Swap big meals for smaller, lighter dinners that are easier to metabolize. The body produces more heat after you chow down on a huge steak than a platter of fruits, veggies, and legumes. Expended energy raises your core body temperature. Stop eating between 1.5 – 2 hours before bed. Feeling snacky? Try some fruit, a small bowl of cereal, or some cheese and crackers to keep your metabolic rate and body temperature in check so you’ll still feel sleepy. And don’t forget to drink lots of cool fluids.
Sleep solo. It’s way better than spooning for staying cool. Cuddling with a partner increases body heat, making the bed a sticky, sweaty pit. Channeling your inner eagle (spread eagle position) is best for reducing body heat and letting air circulate around the body.
BUFFY the HEAT SLAYER
Sleep in your birthday suit. If being in the buff is just not your thing, surround yourself with breathable fabrics. Make sure your pajamas and bed linens are made from light fabrics like cotton, hemp, and linen – and ditch blankets. Kick it up a notch by dampening a sheet or towel in cool water and using it as a top sheet.
Put away your foam mattress top or pillow. Foam absorbs heat, making you feel like you’re sleeping in a hotter bed. Even better? Trade in that extra-comfy mattress for a minimalist straw or bamboo mat. These all-natural sleeping surfaces are less comfortable, but they don’t retain heat like a puffy, cloth-covered mattress.
Stick your feet out of the covers. The body dissipates heat through the scalp, skin, and soles of our feet—anywhere with lots of blood vessels where heat can be released.
Sleep in the basement. Remember, heat rises. So if you live in a multiple story dwelling the lower you are the cooler it will be. Set up your bed, hammock, or cot as close to the ground as possible to beat the heat. In a one-story home, that means hauling the mattress down from a sleeping loft or high bed and putting it on the floor. Try rigging up a hammock or set up a simple cot. Both types of beds are suspended on all sides, which increases airflow.
The basement or the first floor will be the coolest in the house, so sleep there if you can.
Still not helping? Bring out your inner mountain man/woman and sleep outside just remember to protect yourself from pesky mosquitoes and other bugs.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
Take a hot bath or shower. Hot? Yep. This seems counterintuitive, but if your skin temperature is hotter than the room you’ll experience a drop in body temperature as heat transfers out. And that’ll help you feel sleepy. If you really can’t wrap your head around making your bath hot then go with warm, tepid water. Also, try leaving your hair wet or put a cold pack on your head before bedtime.
Use your freezer old school style. Place a pan of ice cubes in front of a fan to cool down the air being blown around the room. The breeze will pick up cold water from the icy surface as it melts, creating a cooling mist.
Freeze a damp washcloth for a nice, cool compress. For a cold compress on really hot nights, fill a sock with rice, tie it off, and stick it in the freezer for an hour or so. The compress will stay chilly for up to 30 minutes.
Stick sheets in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bed. Place them in a plastic bag first otherwise they’ll smell like whatever is in your icebox.
Grab a hot water bottle but instead of filling it with hot water like you’d do in winter, during the summer, stick it in the freezer to create a bed-friendly ice pack.
Need to cool down, stat? To chill out super-fast, apply ice packs or cold compresses to pulse points at the wrists, neck, elbows, groin, ankles, and behind the knees.
Use wind power. Point box fans out the windows so they push hot air out, and adjust ceiling fan settings so the blades run counter-clockwise, pulling hot air up and out instead of just twirling it around the room. Make sure there’s a cross-breeze and don’t close your bedroom door.
Try cooling down a whole room by hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window. The breeze blowing in will quickly bring down the room’s temperature.
STEP AWAY FROM THE STOVE
Turn off the oven. Back away slowly. Now is not the time for casseroles or roasts. Up the ante on cool, room-temperature dishes (salads anyone?) to avoid generating any more heat in the house. If hot food is a must, fire up the barbeque but remember tip #2 about eating large meals.
Wanna join me for a Summer of yoga, meditation, sacred storytelling, and journaling practices?
Each day take time to rejoice in and enjoy life’s pleasures from wherever you are in the world! Check out my Sacred Summer Practices starting soon.
Have questions? I’d love to hear from you. Just hit “reply” and ask away.