My Insomnia-beating Heatwave Tricks
Last updated: September 2022
As I type this, we here in the UK are roasting in the second of a series of heatwaves. Back home in the US, not many people understand why 90 to 100 degrees heat is so destructive in the UK until they learn this: nobody here has air conditioning or ceiling fans. You simply can't get away from it, so it poses risks to health that can be challenging to manage. And, may sometimes require a few heatwave tips for beating insomnia.
Why "beat the heat?"
I remember vividly how intense heat and high humidity made my insomnia even more challenging. I already tossed, turned, and twisted all night. Adding heat or high humidity just turned the night into a hot, sweaty mess on top of it. Typically nothing was worse than a night of not sleeping at all; but to then be wrestling with damp sheets – well, that was worse.
I moved to the UK and found cooler temperatures but high humidity; however, now that I'm perimenopausal, I've discovered a few tricks that help me have a cooler sleep – even when there's a heatwave here.
Heatwave tips for beating insomnia
Firstly, I use fans to pull in cool air from outdoors until the temperatures rise. I then button up the windows and blinds to keep the warm air out.
That's a common trick worldwide for managing the sun hitting the house but is especially effective with houses made of brick. We then tilt the fan toward the bed but not directly at us.
Secondly, always use a sheet.
It's weirdly cooler to sleep with a sheet than just in my birthday suit, so an Egyptian cotton sheet covers me. I roll the duvet into a sausage in the middle of the bed so I can roll part of it onto me or not, depending on how I'm feeling.
When it's hot, I can lightly spray or spritz the sheet before I get into bed. With the fan moving air through the room, the moisture evaporates slowly, helping keep me cool.
I then borrow a trick from my migraine toolbox and adapt it. I take a small hand towel and fold it lengthways, making it thinner than if it were open entirely. I wet it until it is not quite able to drip. I then lay this on my chest, from where my collarbones hit my sternum, right down to where my ribcage ends in the front.
The towel stays damp and cool all night as the water evaporates and keeps me cool. When I do this, I sleep far better in the heat – and have far fewer hot flushes.
There's also very likely an element of 'associated comfort' in using the damp cloth trick. I usually put a cold cloth on my forehead and eyes when experiencing migraine pain. I associate the wet hand towel with easing that pain, and that feeling of comfort and ease also probably helps me with my sleep on these warm, muggy nights.
I have heard of people wearing cooling socks, but I have never tried them, nor have I tried damp socks. I will be incorporating that as a test during our next, inevitable heatwave.
What do you do to keep cool at night and prevent the heat from worsening your insomnia and sleeping problems? We can never have too many ideas to try!
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