Take this advice for sleeping during a heatwave

It is the time of year when steamy nights can leave us tossing and turning in the early hours of the morning (and fronting up to work the next day with sore heads and bleary eyes, as if we had spent the evening doing something much more exciting).

So is there a sneaky trick to help us fall asleep as the mercury rises? Unfortunately, says CQUniversity sleep expert Professor Drew Dawson, there isn't. It sounds frustratingly simple, but if you want to fall asleep when your body feels too hot, you just need to make your body less hot.

How do you fall asleep when it’s too hot? Unfortunately, you just have to make yourself cooler.Credit:Stocksy

"I wish I could tell you there's some kind of amazing research or tips you can use, but it's pretty much: if it's hotter than you're used to, you'll struggle to get to sleep."

It all comes down to the way in which our bodies bring on sleep.

"To facilitate sleep onset, you drop your core temperature and raise your peripheral temperature," explains Professor Dawson. "And the hotter it gets, or the colder it gets, outside of what's called the thermal neutral zone, the more difficult that is to do."

For most people, the thermal neutral zone is considered to be between 18 to 28 degrees (in your bed, not outside).

"If you live in the tropics it tends to adjust up, if you live in a temperate climate it tends to adjust down," Professor Dawson says.

If you are hotter than this, your body will not be able to lose sufficient heat to lower your core temperature.

Contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely that you are waking up on a hot night because you are dehydrated. Basically, says Professor Dawson, you're waking up because your body is struggling to regulate its temperature.

Sydney resident Christopher Pearce, who lives in a terrace house with no airconditioning or ceiling fan, said he and his wife have developed tricks to beat the heat.

"We’ve been leaving the doors open, even the front door, I’ve been lying on the wooden floor boards until it’s cool enough at around midnight or a bit later," Mr Pearce said.

"When the breeze comes through some times at night, with all the windows and doors open, it’s a bit better – but that’s something most people in the inner city wouldn’t normally do. I think it’s been pretty quiet, maybe when everyone’s back at work it might be a bit too busy to do that."

Mr Pearce also recommends having a cool shower and not drying off completely before bed. But as for personal fans, forget about them.

Christopher Pearce has resorted to lying on the floorboards of his home, in Sydney’s Newtown, to beat the heat.Credit:SMH

"They don’t work. They just push the hot air around. The only thing I’ve ever had that works is a ceiling fan."

So, how else can you bring your environment within the thermal neutral zone?

The "sweet spot" room temperature for sleeping is between 17 and 19 degrees, Professor Peter Eastwood, president of the Sleep Health Foundation, says.

"Make your room dark, keep the noise down and remove things that go 'ping' in the night like phones. It's about making your bedroom as good a sleep environment as possible."

Removing the doona and using sheets in breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton will help, Professor Eastwood says, along with seasonal pyjamas, or just "go starkers".

"I've heard some strange things – people putting their sheets in the freezer and things like that," he said.

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