How to Get Better Sleep When It’s Hot Outside

How to Get Better Sleep When It’s Hot Outside

As the days stretch longer and the temperatures climb, the summer season brings a unique set of challenges to getting a good night’s sleep. Even though we relish the extended daylight for outdoor activities and social gatherings, these changes can disrupt our sleep patterns, impacting our overall well-being and cognitive function.

How the heat affects our sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely tied to our body's ability to regulate its temperature. During sleep, the body’s core temperature naturally decreases, signaling the brain that it’s time to rest. However, during summer, higher ambient temperatures can disrupt this natural thermoregulation, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Research has shown that the ideal temperature range for sleep in adults is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (about 15.5 to 19.5 degrees Celsius). Maintaining a bedroom environment within this temperature range can significantly enhance sleep quality by aligning with the body’s natural drop in core temperature [1]. A slightly warmer environment, around 69 degrees Fahrenheit, is often recommended for infants and young children.

Interestingly, taking a warm bath or shower about 90 minutes before bedtime can help initiate this cooling process. The warmth of the water increases the body’s surface temperature, and once out of the bath or shower, this heat dissipates into the environment, leading to a rapid decrease in body temperature. This decline not only helps to trigger sleep onset but also promotes deeper sleep [2]. This method is supported by research that shows passive body heating through bathing can improve sleep efficiency and overall sleep quality.

By understanding and managing these factors, you can create an environment that supports natural sleep patterns despite the summer heat, ensuring restorative sleep that rejuvenates both mind and body.

Optimizing your environment

You don’t have to be a biohacker to optimize your bedroom for sleep. Creating a dark, cool, and quiet sleeping environment is crucial. Investing in blackout curtains can significantly block out early sunrises and long daylight hours. Additionally, using a fan or an air conditioner to maintain a cool temperature and employing breathable bedding materials like cotton or linen can help prevent overheating at night. A cooling mattress or mattress pad may be worthwhile if you're a chronically hot sleeper.

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule helps regulate your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. Even during summer months when social activities might tempt us to stray from our normal bedtime, consistency is key. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day stabilizes our sleep patterns and can make it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally.

The concept of social jetlag—where our sleep schedule on weekends differs significantly from our weekday routine—can impair our sleep quality. This misalignment can make Mondays feel especially tough. Staying consistent with your sleep and wake times can mitigate these effects and promote better sleep health.

Timing your dinner for optimal sleep

During the summer, the extended daylight hours often inspire us to push back our evening activities, including dinner. However, eating too close to bedtime can adversely affect your sleep quality. It’s recommended to finish dinner at least two to three hours before you plan to go to sleep. This allows your body ample time to digest the meal and wind down properly.

Digestion plays a significant role in how well we sleep. Eating late can lead to discomfort, heartburn, or indigestion, which can keep you awake or disturb your sleep. Our bodies naturally begin to cool down as we approach bedtime, a process that can be disrupted by late eating. The metabolic processes required to digest food generate heat and can raise your body's core temperature at a time when it should be dropping, making it harder to fall asleep in an already warm environment.

Eating earlier aligns better with our circadian rhythm, which not only helps with digestion but also promotes the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. By dining earlier, you give your body the right cues for sleep and enhance your ability to fall asleep more quickly and enjoy a deeper sleep.

Incorporating an earlier dinner into your summer routine can help counteract the temptation to eat late due to longer daylight hours. Planning and sticking to a scheduled dinner time can also stabilize your overall daily routine, aiding in better sleep and more energetic mornings.

Harness morning light for better sleep

Exposure to natural light, particularly in the morning, is critical for synchronizing our circadian rhythm—the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, emphasizes the profound impact of morning light on our brain's ability to regulate sleep and wakefulness effectively. According to Huberman, getting exposure to natural light within the first 30 to 60 minutes after waking up can set a robust circadian signal that enhances alertness during the day and improves the quality of sleep at night.

Dr. Huberman suggests that even on cloudy or overcast days, the outdoor light is far brighter than indoor lighting and sufficient to trigger these beneficial effects. He recommends aiming for at least 10 to 15 minutes of morning sunlight. If natural sunlight is scarce, especially in the winter months or in very northern or southern latitudes, a high-quality artificial bright light device can serve as an effective substitute.

Exposure to natural light in the morning can help adjust your circadian rhythm to the earlier wake times of summer. Even on cloudy days, natural light has a strong influence on our internal clock, helping us stay alert in the morning and sleepy towards bedtime.

Embrace new tools for better sleep

The Apollo wearable supports sleep because it can help stabilize and reset your circadian rhythm. When your circadian rhythm stabilizes, you naturally feel tired and alert at predictable times each day. This makes you much less susceptible to midday exhaustion or tossing and turning throughout the night. And it may help you avoid that second (or fourth) cup of coffee.

  1. Blume C, Garbazza C, Spitschan M. Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie (Berl). 2019 Sep;23(3):147-156. doi: 10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x. Epub 2019 Aug 20. PMID: 31534436; PMCID: PMC6751071.
  2. Wright, H and Pacheco, D. (2022, September 29). The Best Temperature for Sleep. Sleep Foundation.
  3. Haghayegh, S, Khoshvenis, S, Smolensky MH, et al. Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Review. 2019. 46:124-135. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008