Nobody likes to sleep when they’re hot. There’s some scientific precedent for that, too; the brain’s sleep circuits tend to engage when temperatures fall since ambient temperatures tend to be lower at night. The body’s core temperature drops when you sleep too, and warmer sleep environments tend to cause middle-of-the-night arousals or early morning waking. While some people opt for thinner, cooler sheets or turn down their thermostats, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do to escape the heat. Millions of people worldwide have discovered that the hard way this summer as record heat waves have set in, disturbing people’s sleep and potentially adding to growing worldwide sleep shortages.

Record high temperatures have been measured all over the world in recent weeks, killing 33 people in Canada. Even Northern Siberia, typically regarded as an icy, frozen wasteland, saw temperatures reach as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. While those high temperatures might be good news for the aquatics and ice cream industries, they haven’t been good for sleep.

According to surveys taken in Europe, 88% of people have reported losing sleep due to these record high temperatures. On average, respondents reported losing around 45 minutes of sleep each night. Those high temperatures have driven some individuals without air conditioning to sleep with their windows open, further worsening sleep disturbances due to letting in outside noise, allergens, or even increasing some people’s anxiety over break-ins through open windows.

What can be done about these heat waves and the sleep shortages they cause? Unfortunately not that much. Sometimes you just have to sleep in the heat. Luckily, many manufacturers now make mattresses with built-in cooling technology to help keep you cool while you sleep. Many bedding manufacturers also make special sheets and duvets designed to maximize air flow and cool you off as you sleep. If your sleep is suffering due to the heat waves, it might be time to upgrade your bed and bedding.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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