There’s plenty to like about hot summer weather: Swimming under the stars, shady patios, barbecues with friends, the list goes on. That said, as one of the registered counsellors providing private video appointments at TELUS Health MyCare™, I often hear that hot weather makes it difficult to sleep. 

The snooze-disrupting effects of heat are covered by boatloads of research, with this study showing that elevated bedtime temperature is actually more of a sleep problem than excess noise. Turns out the ideal temperature for sleep is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius, and that getting enough snooze time—7 to 9 hours a night, give or take—is an important part of staying healthy and being at your best. 

The good news is that there are lots of easy ways to sleep better in the summer when it’s so hot that chickens are laying omelettes (and you don’t have air conditioning). For instance:

‘MacGyver’ some free AC

Man sleeping in kitchen

To “MacGyver” something refers to the TV action series where the titular character is always using household objects to build hang-gliders, bazookas and other bad-guy-thwarting paraphernalia. 

MacGyver never rigged up an air-conditioning system (that we know of), but he could have with nothing but a fan and a bunch of ice packs or frozen water bottles. Place the frozen items about six inches in front of the fan, and hey presto: free AC! When you wake up, simply put the items back in the freezer, so you’re ready for the next balmy night. 

Have a warm shower

A cold shower is refreshing, no doubt, but when you’re about to go to bed, stimulating your body with a blast of chilly H2O isn’t the best idea. Instead, try having a cool or lukewarm shower to bring your body temperature down a bit without shocking your body into full alertness.

Screens begone!

The bedroom should be a sanctuary reserved for two activities: sleeping and sex. Ban TV, smartphones and laptops at least 30 minutes before lights out, as they’re too stimulating to help you go to sleep.

Stroll before sleep

Instead of staring at a screen, take 30 minutes to enjoy the long summer days by taking a pre-bed stroll. It’s a great way to wind down and make the most of warm summer evenings. You’ll miss them when they’re gone!

Go dark before bed

Another advantage of an evening walk is that spending time in a darkened environment, indoors or out, gives your mind and body the cue that it’s time for slumber. Plus, chilling on an unlit porch, patio, or deck is another great way to savour the season and put your mind at ease.

Keep it clean

Your bedroom should be clean and clutter-free, so you have a clear mind as you drift off to dreamland.

Let darkness reign

The human body is programmed to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s night. Keep your bedroom dark with heavy curtains and cover the LED lights in your electronics to prevent any interruption of your natural sleep cycle.

No booze 2 hours before bed

Don’t be fooled by alcohol’s sedative effects. It can rob you of a good night’s sleep; the best way to get a good sleep is to go to sleep sober. So, if you really want to have a drink, have one or two with dinner, then switch to something non-alcoholic at least 2 hours before bed. When your body is processing alcohol, it makes it difficult to stay asleep.

Butt out

It’s good advice to quit smoking in general and even better advice when it comes to sleep. The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant that can keep you awake and interrupt your sleep patterns.

Lay off spicy food

Spicy food, or just a heavy meal, can also disturb sleep, especially if you eat right before bedding down. Digesting food can make it harder to feel relaxed, and it can also induce indigestion or heartburn, which is no fun any time.

Shelve the caffeine

Drinking coffee, tea and cola, all of which contain caffeine, can wreck your sleep patterns, so switch to decaffeinated or caffeine-free drinks in the afternoon. Which beverage fits the bill perfectly, costs nothing, and is great for your health? WATER for the win! Even chocolate, which contains a stimulant similar to caffeine, can hinder a good night’s slumber.

Exercise earlier

Getting active makes you physically tired, which helps you sleep. But exercising right before bedtime boosts your adrenaline levels, which keeps you awake.

Stick to a routine

When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. Go to bed at around the same time every night, and you’ll sleep better. A wild weekend can throw your sleep routine off, so dial it back a bit for the sake of your sleep.

Nap with caution

While daytime napping is a popular summer pastime, it can actually disrupt your sleep routine and, in turn, lead to fewer Zs overall. If you do nap, the key is to keep it to less than 30 minutes. Set an alarm so your power nap doesn’t turn into several hours in lullaby land.

Do you have a trick to sleep well on hot summer nights? Feel free to share it in the comments below!

Easy Health Tips

Tired of feeling tired?

Set your alarm clock to “refreshed” with science-backed tips from Canadian experts to sleep better, stress less, and eat healthier. Sign up for the Don’t Change Much newsletter.