Navigating summer insomnia

Amany Abdel-Moneim , Tuesday 25 Jun 2024

Prolonged exposure to heat can elevate stress levels, further complicating the ability to relax and fall asleep

Navigating summer insomnia


As summer heat waves intensify in Egypt, many people may find their sleep patterns being disrupted, leading to insomnia and increased stress levels. High temperatures can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, affecting overall health and well-being.

The human body’s core temperature naturally decreases in the evening, signalling the onset of sleep. However, when ambient temperatures remain high, this cooling process is hindered, making it difficult to achieve the deep, restorative sleep necessary for optimal health. Additionally, prolonged exposure to heat can elevate stress levels, further complicating the ability to relax and fall asleep.

While air-conditioning might seem like a simple solution to this problem, experts say it’s not the answer. High temperatures tax air-conditioners, which consume energy and can place additional strain on the electricity grid, and there are people who don’t have access to them. 

Here are some tips for quality sleep during a heat wave:

Choose breathable bedding:

Opt for lightweight, breathable bedding materials such as cotton or linen, which allow for better air circulation. Avoid heavy fabrics and consider using a light, breathable blanket instead of a thick comforter.


Wear lightweight sleepwear:

Select sleepwear made from natural, breathable fabrics like cotton. Loose-fitting, lightweight pyjamas can help regulate body temperature and keep you cool throughout the night.


Cool down before bed:

Take a lukewarm shower or bath before bed to help lower your body temperature. This can help you feel more comfortable and relaxed as you prepare for sleep. Alternatively, you can soak your feet in cool water or use a damp washcloth to cool your face and neck.


Create a calming bedtime routine:

Establishing a calming bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Consider activities such as reading a book, practising gentle yoga or stretching, or listening to soothing music. Avoid stimulating activities and screens for at least an hour before bed, as the blue light from electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt your sleep cycle.


Adjust your sleep position:

Sleeping in a starfish position, with arms and legs spread out, can help promote air circulation around your body. This position minimises skin contact and allows heat to dissipate more effectively, keeping you cooler during the night.


Stay hydrated:

Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of heat, making it even harder to sleep. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated but avoid excessive fluid intake right before bedtime to prevent frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.


Use blackout curtains:

Long summer days mean more sunlight, which can interfere with your sleep schedule. Invest in blackout curtains or window shutters to block out early morning light and help keep your room cooler. This can create a dark, cool environment that is conducive to better sleep.


Optimise your sleep environment:

Creating a cool and comfortable sleep environment is crucial during hot summer nights. Use fans or air conditioning to keep the room temperature between 20 to 24°C, the ideal range for sleep. If air-conditioning is not available, consider placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan to create a cooling breeze.


Consider natural sleep aids:

Natural sleep aids such as chamomile tea or lavender essential oil can help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea or using a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow can create a calming atmosphere that encourages restful sleep.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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