By Sandee LaMotte, CNN
Are you waking up in a puddle of sweat, if you can sleep at all? That is the grim reality for millions of people around the world who suffer from severe and unbearable heat waves.
In California, temperatures in the 110s Fahrenheit are setting records and pushing the state’s electrical power grid to breaking point. In the UK and Europe, recurring heatwaves are burning residents and tourists alike, sparking wildfires and fueling drought, at the same time Europe suffers from power shortages due to Russian restrictions. in the delivery of natural gas to the region.
Many houses and hotels in the region do not have air conditioning, leaving people who are not used to extreme heat unsure of how to cope. Historically, there was no need for central air conditioning in much of the UK and the rest of Europe: high temperatures were not the norm. That may be permanently changing, according to a recent analysis that predicted severe temperatures in the region will become the norm by 2035.
It’s not just the unbearable sun: the night temperatures don’t drop as they should either. A February study found that the kind of cool, wet nights needed to help control wildfires are disappearing: There was an average annual increase of 36% in “flammable” nights between 1979 and 2003.
sleep suffers more
“Sleep is a vital function necessary for adaptive physical and mental well-being,” according to a review published Thursday in the Journal of Sleep Research, which addresses the health impact of sleeping in warmer temperatures and provides advice on how to cope.
For the best quality sleep, experts have long recommended sleeping in a cool room—between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) is best. What happens when you can’t do that during a heat wave?
Studies have shown that higher nighttime temperatures increase wakefulness and reduce deep waves and REM (rapid eye movement), both of which are critical to how the body repairs and cools itself at night.
Exposure to heat waves during pregnancy may be associated with adverse outcomes such as preterm birth, according to a 2019 study. Older adults may have higher heart rates and more physiological stress when sleeping in warmer temperatures. A 2008 Australian study even found that deaths from mental and behavioral disorders increased during heat waves, especially among older adults.
Tips for sleeping in the heat
If we learn to better deal with sleep problems during heat waves, we could limit the negative impact on our health, according to a team of experts from the European Insomnia Network, author of the review.
Here are some of the best tips from the review, along with tips from sleep experts in the United States who were not involved in the publication.
1) Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water during the day can help your body better regulate your temperature at night.
But don’t drink for an hour or two before bed, or you’ll end up waking up at night to go to the bathroom, said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. at the University of Southern California. Instead, “try sucking on ice cubes before bed.”
Eating lighter meals throughout the day can also help, said Dr. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine and professor of neurology. at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
2) Choose loose cotton clothing; avoid synthetic ones, which can trap heat next to the skin.
3) If you are lucky enough to have a cooler period during the day, open the windows and doors and turn on the fans to ventilate the bedroom, then close them when the temperature rises.
4) If there are no breaks from the heat, close the blinds, pull the window shades and do what you can “to keep the house and bedroom as cool and dark as possible both day and night,” suggested the revision.
5) Avoid alcohol at night: it dehydrates the body and prepares it for night sweats.
6) For you and your child, set aside an hour or more before bed for relaxing activities, such as “reading a book, listening to a story or music. This could help cool down and relax,” the review added.
7) Before you hit that hot sack, take a warm or cool (but not cold) shower or foot bath, which can help reduce your heat stress and prepare you for sleep. How does that happen?
“Your body temperature drops after you get out of the shower or bath as your body adjusts to the cooler environment,” Dasputa said. “This drop in temperature prepares your body for sleep because our body temperature has a natural circadian rhythm: the body is primed to cool down when you lie down and warm up when you wake up.”
8) Do your best to keep your bedroom below 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) if you can. To do so, try using ceiling fans or electric fans on the floor or by your bed, which use “up to 50 times less electricity” than air conditioning, the review noted.
“There are also fairly inexpensive ice cooling fans that can be placed near the bed,” Zee said in an email. “If you can’t keep the room cool, temporarily sleeping on lower floors like the basement (if there is one) will be cooler.”
Advice aside, the health impact of people who are used to temperate climates hasn’t been thoroughly researched, said psychiatrist Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist at the Sleep Medicine Center in New York. the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Studying people who live in hot countries and have adapted to hot weather would also be helpful, Kolla said: “There is no evidence that they have higher rates of insomnia or other sleep disruptions or, indeed, sleep poorly. Therefore, it is very likely that we can learn many things about the adaptation measures used by these cultures that have lived in much warmer climates for many centuries.”
The CNN Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery company. All rights reserved.