The Indian summer is here, and it is as grueling and non-forgiving as desert heat. Record temperatures, hot winds, inability to step out of our houses (or even rooms) impact our sleep just the same. Sleeping, resting, or doing anything without sweating, facing extreme heat becomes a challenge every time June and July are near. Climate change makes the seasonal changes more intense and more demanding on our bodies, making physical health much more of a priority.
While sleeping, our bodies need a cooler temperature, and if you've had a taste of no-electricity summer nights, you probably understand this too well. The Indian summers are unforgiving, and there is more than the 'heat' that makes it difficult to sleep. Sleeping in summers doesn't need to be a herculean task, and you can sleep comfortably by following these tips:
- Temperature regulation: The main hurdle that affects how you sleep and the time you take to sleep is the room temperature. There is no spite from Indian summers in most parts of the country. Northern India, Western India, and central India face heat extremes in plains, whereas the rest of the country has tropical, hilly, or sea climates. Talking about what the majority of the country faces, heat reaches new heights with low or high humidity (region dependent). These temperature extremes aren't good for our body, and at the end of the day, we need some relief from the heat. Proper air conditioning, the right temperature of your surroundings, and overall cooler or temperature neutral conditions are essential. The room humidity is also a factor when you consider temperature regulation in your room. For example, higher humidity would lead to sweats in a room that uses "air cooler" ventilation because it blows colder air around with high humidity. This form of air circulation might work in some regions, but when the outside temperature is north of the typical Indian summer, 38-40 degrees C, it doesn't help much. Similarly, using an AC helps cool the air inside the room by pumping out the warmer one and cooling and outputting the inner room air. In this scenario, the room humidity isn't a factor because it cools the air with internal coolant systems instead of cooling it with humidity. This humidity and temperature regulation factor is essential for a good night's sleep because you don't want to wake up in sweats and feeling slightly cold (which often leads to a common cold). The room temperature should be adequate for your body to feel at ease (either temperature neutral or cooler than outside to sleep comfortably). You can also look into different temperature regulation ways by looking into DIY room temperature regulation tips if you do not have access to an AC or air cooler.
- Air ventilation: Air ventilation is crucial in addition to the proper temperature regulation. While your body would appreciate a colder or temperature-neutral sleeping environment, everyone needs good air ventilation in summers. While ACs would solve this issue with no need to take additional steps, there is a need to address air ventilation in other cases. Ventilation is so much more critical, especially when multiple people sleep in the room and you want an outlet or proper ventilation for exhaled air. Ventilation takes out any potential smells in your room and reduces the humidity, making your room feel colder by default. If you're not using an AC, a closed mesh door, meshed windows, or other air inlets that allow proper air regulation would be beneficial. A good ventilation inlet/outlet system keeps the pests and moisture from outside in check, ensuring that you sleep comfortably.
- Pest problems: With summer coming, one of the main issues Indian households face is the resurgence of pests from their hibernation. More pests like mosquitoes and rats are more troubling in summers because of humidity and their ideal temperature. Hearing the mosquito buzzing in your ear and the tickling doesn't do any favors to your sleep quality or your overall health. Mosquito bites, rats free on the move, and houseflies buzzing around create a poor sleeping environment in addition to being a disease vector. And in the current year, sleep and overall immunity are more precious than all the luxury you could get. Getting rid of pests like mosquitos with mosquito-repellent creams, mosquito-repelling sprays, wick machines, stickers, and other tools is essential.
- Sleep hygiene check: When summers are around, we want more relief from the unforgiving hot air, sweats and menial problems turn big. As a result, people turn to cold drinks, cold coffees, hard liquor on the rocks, and comfort food in general. This dependence on comfort food, hard liquor, caffeine, and other sugary drinks near bedtime is harmful and dehydrating. Sure, you need a cooler temperature, and it feels better to have some comfort food or cold liquor to take your mind off things, but that is detrimental to your sleep. Sleep hygiene refers to how your body feels at peace, relating to diet, sleep time habits, stress before bedtime, and mindset before you go to sleep. In summers, you should avoid caffeine (cold coffees, soft beverages like Cola), and liquor that does a number on your digestive system, and liquor dehydrating your body. It would be best if you had such drinks in time to allow your body to recover and hydrate properly before sleeping. Caffeine would not only dehydrate your body but also make it difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep. Hard liquor or beer before bedtime would further stress your liver, leading to dehydration and waking up at night. The better you control your activities, diet, and mindset (no action or horror movies) in an hour or so before sleep, the higher sleep quality you will have.
- Exercise at the right time: Exercise is the single most crucial factor determining how every system in our body works, and it's the same for sleep. Exercising is essential as a lifestyle factor that helps our bodies run more efficiently and maintain all systems in perfect health. Your immune system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, metabolic rate rely on you to move your body. But if you have a sedentary lifestyle or want to avoid the Indian summer heat, you can always go out for a morning walk, work out from home or go late in the evening. Additionally, making time for exercise before bed is a bad idea because it activates your body instead of the apparent logic of tiring it. Exercising your body with a high-intensity workout or strength training should be avoided, especially in summers. You can make out time for exercise during the day before the heat is too much to get out of your home. Exercise helps your body spend the extra energy by burning fat into usable energy for the rest of the day by enhancing your metabolism. So, when you go to sleep, your body knows it's time to relax and focus on rejuvenation and healing. With little or no exercise, your body doesn't use or metabolize energy at the right time, which leads to the feeling of being unable to sleep. There is too much excess energy left to make it easier to sleep and, in turn, leads to fat storage, impacting your sleep and overall health.
- Maintaining a sleep schedule: Summers or winters, our bodies need a fixed sleep schedule. And come the hot months of May and June, you might prefer sleeping during the day with an AC on till the worst of the afternoon heat is over. It is an excellent way to get rid of excessive heat, impacting your sleep schedule and body clock, which needs consistent and non-disruptive sleep. It would help if you went for a power nap that doesn't exceed 30 minutes, but anything over that is similar to going into a deep sleep. A good sleep schedule helps your body's metabolism work efficiently and even regulates the body's energy expenditure. A fixed sleep schedule helps align your body clock to work round the clock and optimize for best temperature conservation. Your body spends heat and converts it into a sweat, trying to lower the temperature, and without a fixed sleep schedule, your metabolism wouldn't function properly. If you tend to sweat a lot during sleep, this might be one reason to fix your sleep schedule, and of course, your room's ventilation and temperature control.
- Keep cold showers for the morning: Do you take a cold shower before sleep to feel better and colder? Well, taking a cold shower might provide some much-needed relief from the heat but decreases sleep quality. Cold showers are very good for your health but best left to the mornings or evenings at best. Going in for a cold shower before bed and jumping into fresh sheets may be your idea of unwinding. A cold shower rejuvenates and activates your body for the day ahead, and doing so before bedtime achieves the same. But this counterproductive approach is something that you can handle and change to evening or mornings instead. A lukewarm shower before bed or some much-needed relaxing time in a lukewarm bathtub would be an ideal way to spend and unwind before going to bed. A cold shower or bath would raise your body temperature, which you might then try cooling with an AC, and end up with cold or inability to go to sleep for hours.
- Proper sleepwear and bed accessories: Loose, lightweight, and thin summer clothes are essential for your body to feel relaxed in summers. The same applies to the bed accessories and any clothing or pillows you go to sleep with. Thin cotton clothing helps keep your body cool by allowing more room for movement, ease of sweating, and a general sense of feeling light and calm. Leave the tight clothing and undergarments, and go for lighter clothing that doesn't feel like it's suffocating your body. The same applies to sheets and comforters you use in your bed, as lighter and more comfortable sheets are better for your sleep. They allow your body to move, sweat, and feel at ease without feeling external pressure on your body suffocating you. Alternatively, slightly cooling your bedsheets with a water spray or cooling them with very little moisture would also offer a better sleeping environment. Drenching your sheets or cold in the water and squeezing them out of water wouldn't help as it would take out your body heat fast and lead to poor sleep quality and cold.
- Cool your hands and your feet: Your hands and feet are your body's sink system, and cooling them would help regulate your body temperature. There are a number of ways to keep your hands and feet cold before sleep-
a. Put your feet and hands in cold water: No, taking a cold shower is still not a good idea, but using some cold water in a bucket to cool off or using a cold spray can help offer some much-needed relief from the heat. Your body gets much-needed relief from cold, while this simple trick enhances blood regulation. Colder hands and feet also help offer a sense of calm that your body needs before sleep.
b. Keep them out of your sheets: If you use lower temperatures in your air conditioning and prefer to go for a blanket or comforter covering the entire body, a different approach would help you sleep without this hassle. You can aim for a better and more comfortable sleeping experience by keeping your limbs out of the sheets. This allows better temperature regulation, keeps your body cooler as body heat escapes, and offers more relaxed and comfortable sleep.
- Unwind and relax: Is the heat and stresses from the day taking their toll on you? Summers and the current pandemic environment might be taking their toll on you, and none of the tips mentioned above seem to work. Taking out time to relax and do "nothing" is vital for your health and sleep, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by unwinding. Your brain needs rest and relaxation, and the pandemic fatigue, health, and work concerns might be leading to anxiety or depression that you haven't been able to recognize. Summers are here, and the toll-taking time of winters is over, and you can spend more time in nature, eating right, and reading books in a cool or temperature-neutral environment. Take some time out for yourself before the day is over, and you would feel yourself sleeping better and feel happier during the daytime. Here are some tips to unwind and relax in the Indian summer:
- Mindfulness: Sit in peace without people around, and you could enjoy better, more comfortable nights. Using journaling, meditation, and mindful activities or hobbies like reading, drawing, and other stress-free activities helps unwind. You get more comfortable sleep when you're relaxed inside and out, and one of the best ways is being mindful. Alternatively, activities like low-pace yoga and bathtub time would help you slip into a more relaxed mindset.
- Nature time: Nature time is the best healer for all things related to body and mind. With the pandemic raging on and keeping us inside, we might lose our perspective on things in life. Nature time would not only motivate you to move more but help you relax mentally. If you spend time walking or sitting in a park near your home at night (no devices) and walk or read, you would have a better time and ease of going to sleep.
- Switch off the news: As mentioned in the sleep hygiene suggestion above, things like high-action games, stressful events and news, that's always bad are a sign of bad sleep hygiene. These activities do nothing except make you anxious in the long term and decrease your sleep quality. Listen to music, read books and focus on mindfulness instead of listening to what's happening in the news. The best way to relax is to tune out your immediate surroundings' negativity and focus on calming activities. The pandemic won't be over in a day, and your sleep and mental health are more important than anything else.
Summers might seem sweaty, uncomfortable, horrible in all ways possible, and even full of mosquitoes. But how you sleep is in your hands, and the sooner you adopt these suggestions, the better you would be able to sleep (and quicker). Sleeping in summer needs you to be calm, relaxed, and mentally and physically free of stress.
The pandemic is not going to finish any time soon, and we can take our lessons from the last year and focus on better immunity and sleep. This summer, choose to be healthier and have better immunity than listen to the news and find unhealthy coping mechanisms that impact your sleep.
So, take care of your sleep hygiene and follow endorsed tips as mentioned in this article, and sleep on a good mattress to enjoy restful sleep and stay healthy.