Get Some Sleep: Tips to combat the heat
July 20th, 2011
12:41 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Tips to combat the heat

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs on Tuesdays (or this week, on Wednesday) on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

The recent heat wave across many parts of the country has been disturbing the sleep of many people who are not fortunate enough to have air conditioning.

This makes perfect sense because sleep is associated with a steady decline in our core body temperature. It should reach its lowest point approximately three hours before we wake.

Therefore, when we are overheated and this natural temperature drop is impeded, then sleep is disrupted.

There is research showing that melatonin has a direct effect on body temperature and that it reinforces the nocturnal decrease in the core body temperature thereby inducing sleep. Melatonin has shown mixed results as a sleeping agent in most studies, but it could be worth a try if you having trouble sleeping specifically because of the heat.

Before starting melatonin, young men and teens should always discuss its use with their physicians because there is some research showing decrease in testosterone as well as decrease in sperm count.

A bath or shower before also might help. It's  not so much that hot water is relaxing as the fact that the cooling that takes place afterwards is conducive to sleep. So if your bedroom is like a sauna, it is best to try taking a cool shower before bed.

Another trick to aid sleep in these hot times is to get a small, tabletop water feature and keep it in your bedroom. It is true that the sound of running water makes people feel cooler. Of course, you can use a sound machine, but there is nothing like the real trickle.

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Filed under: Sleep

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Debra Stang

    I'm glad to have the information in this article. I work with a few clients who either don't own or won't use air conditioning, and they have been having sleep problems in this weather. I'll ask them to try some of your suggestions and see if things don't improve a little.

    Debra Stang
    Alliant Professional Networking Specialist

    July 20, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mouselol

      Much easier suggestion. I don't have a/c in my house as it clogs up my sinuses when trying to sleep. What we do have are stand up fans in every room of the house. Sleep with the fan aimed on your body so you have a breeze on you all night long on a nice low setting so it's not too noise if noise bothers you. Your room may be hot but the breeze keeps you cool.

      August 1, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
  2. fernace

    This article is lacking the most logical common sense advice to combat heat, not just to sleep butfor the duration of the heatwave.Heres my advice & I live in a state that's always hot in summer (spring & fall,too). My 1st thought is keep water bottles with you everywhere you go, for the house or apt., buy some fans, open windows, buy screens to keep bugs out. As for a shower, good idea, but if you're hot make it a cool one. Also, instead of buying a pricey decorative "waterfall," invest in a window unit AC. If you're going to spend $$, might as well get something that actually keeps you cool. It will lull you to sleep better than a "trickle noise," as it provides a mellow "white noise," too! I've always found heat to be sominizing, but it is crucial to not get overheated while you sleep so the cool shower, waterbottle, fan & open window(optional for safety reasons), should do the trick! Good luck, stay hydrated!!

    July 20, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mikeal

      @fernace", well that is your opinion but not mine. I do things differently and the writer cannot obviously write just from your perspective or mine. The article is a basic overview, not a complete view just to help you. Are you that dense to not realize this? I am pretty sure that your "basic logic" can be assumed by most of us and the writer needn't tell everything.

      July 21, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse |
    • ereljo

      Also, people don't buy the window air untis because 1) they are not cheap & 2) the electric bill will go way up if you run an air conditioning unit even if it's just the window unit kind... People can't afford that. This article gives some great alternative options.

      July 31, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
  3. Ill take the editing job

    CNN – you are obviously in need of an editor ( or several ). I.E.- "A bath or shower before might also might help." I see silly and lazy grammatical errors like this throughout the MAJORITY of your articles. Come on now, you are a professional organization. Get your stuff together!!!!!

    July 20, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • immererin

      Don't you mean, "I'll"? As opposed to ill?

      July 20, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      @ "Ill take the editing job", you have to realize and take into perspective what part of the country that the OP is from. I know that here in Michigan, we tend to say and write things differently than those of my friends in Alabama or Massachusetts. We put elements together differently and missing words that we use can being implied by the reader to complete the sentence. We all do this, but we do it differently depending where we live.

      July 21, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • bigrick

      I reread the sentence...looks fine to me

      July 21, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • Willow

      Granted, CNN does need editors, but there is nothing wrong with that particular sentence. I have caught typos in headlines on this site before.

      August 15, 2011 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I absolutely LOVE IT when people make grammatical errors when commenting on those made by others.

      September 25, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
  4. Phil

    The cute girl in the pic is indeed HOT, which of course isvthe reason she's taking a shower. 🙂

    July 20, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tina

    Odd.. I sleep better for some reason. And may I just mention how much I hate the grammar police? Is it just to show everyone that you know more than everyone else? If so, nobody cares.

    July 20, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • petz

      What's interesting here is that a major news outlet can't monitor their own writers to assure proper grammar and spelling. It's a sad day where such simple things are reduced to nothing and become meaningless. Bad habits like that take away from the perceived reliability of information provided, no matter how important it might be.

      July 21, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
  6. Angela

    I agree with you Tina. People read an article and then critize it in the comments section. Why don't the know-it-alls send an email directly to the editor or writer? And, why do you continue to read articles on CNN if it annoys you so much? LOL.

    July 20, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Delmar Knudson

      My grammar can beat up your grammar.

      July 20, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
  7. Jennifer J

    I have observed that I tend to sleep much better in winter months, and now I know why. Interesting.

    July 20, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Don

    Thank you for the sleep tips. It is always good to open oneself to new ideas. I appreciate your article.

    July 20, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Don

    Trying to sleep on wet sheets when you're sweating sucks too.

    July 20, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      Wetting your sheets is actually a different problem.

      July 21, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
  10. Rebecca

    I use clay-filled pads from the pharmacy dept. that I keep in the freezer. They come in different sizes and I bought them for headaches. When it's too hot to sleep I put 1 on my pillow and I fall asleep in no time.

    July 21, 2011 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jw

    wait ... the first suggestion here is melatonin, which can have harmful side affects to young men and teens?? then it's followed up by a bath or shower before bed? there are only three suggestions in this article and each sound like conjecture ... the first potentially harmful. great article.

    July 21, 2011 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mikeal

      I take melatonin for nights that I cannot sleep. No issues at all for me and it works perfectly.

      July 21, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      The side effects are for those who use it more than a few times a year. Some people work the graveyard shift, and need to be able to sleep in the day. Melatonin helps them sleep, and it is those people who should worry about the side effects. Even then , you can't use melatonin for too long (more than 2-3 weeks every day) because your body gets used to it, and it no longer helps you fall asleep.

      July 21, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
  12. David

    "Another trick to aid sleep in these hot times is to get a small, tabletop water feature and keep it in your bedroom. It is true that the sound of running water makes people feel cooler."

    How can anyone do this and not have to keep going to the bathroom?

    July 21, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • blathering

      This is just not possible.

      September 19, 2011 at 05:13 | Report abuse |
  13. Ken M.

    Bleh! I'll give you a good ole Marine Corps trick to sleeping in 120+ degrees with no AC, and I PROMISE IT WORKS. Ironically, some of our FOBs had deep freezes for food, but little or no AC for quite some time. So, we used the deep freezes to freeze those gel packs that are used for muscle cramps. If you put two iced gel packs under both arms and 1 in between your legs, it will cool your core body temperature enough for 6 hours of sleepytime If you can't get the gel packs, you can also triple bag and then freeze green or blue laundry detergent. Ice is a no-go, because it will melt too fast.

    I'm not a doctor like the article writer, but I would advise against taking melatonin supplements as it can throw off your pineal gland's production of natural melatonin, and this could possibily make the user dependent on the supplement. You'd be better off with an amino acid precursor like L-Theanine or L-Tyrophan.

    July 21, 2011 at 04:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      Where do you get L-Theanine or L-Tyrophan?

      July 21, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Ken M.

      You can get them at most vitamin stores.

      July 21, 2011 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    You mean there are actually people too poor to have central A/C ?

    We need a TELETHON!

    July 21, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. POD

    Buy a large window fan.....put it in the window in such a way that it draws the hot air from your bedroom into the air outside...open your bedroom door......turn the fan on.....after all the hot air has been sucked out of the room you will be left with a nice cooling breeze wafting through the room that will enable you to sleep

    July 21, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Chris

    Try drinking a 12-pack before bed; works like a charm.

    July 21, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • POD

      That's called 'passing out' not 'falling asleep'.....in the morning you will be visited by his evil brother 'coming to... hungover' as opposed to the good sister 'waking up.... refreshed'

      July 21, 2011 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
    • andifthatdoesn'twork...

      ...puff a fatty....and drift away

      July 21, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • advertisement

      ...just a blantant worthless plug.....

      July 21, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
  17. KenC

    Um...this is the most USELESS article I've ever read.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Burbank

    OK, so why is it that people get drowsy and want to take a siesta during the hottest part of the day?

    July 21, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      Carb overload.

      July 21, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
  19. Sean Folkson

    Take that shower a good 60 minutes or so before bed, and be sure to let your brain unwind as well. Have a small healthy snack (such as a NightFood bar), and keep your room as dark and as cool as you can.

    Thanks for continuing to provide tips on this important subject.

    Sean Folkson – Founder, NightFood, Inc.

    July 21, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Palm Beach

    I agree these sleep tips are not really news worthy. Melatonin works poorly and not a long term fix. Cool showers are not the answer although the picture is cool. My Acupuncturist recommended some Chinese herbals to reduce my internal heat. I've found huge success with iSleep Herb Pack has helped my thoughts subside so I can sleep. I also love a product called Menopause Relief Herb Pack which has reduced my night sweats even when the room temp is set at 65 degrees.

    July 21, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Lisa Shives MD

    I did not mean to suggest that taking supplemental melatonin will help people feel cooler. I was describing a basic fact that we know about endogenous melatonin, i.e. that it lowers core body temperature. Research shows that taking melatonin when your own natural melatonin is already high, (as it is at night) does not raise it more or amplify any of its natural effects and in research studies it has not been shown to be useful as a sleep aid except in people trying to sleep in the daytime when melatonin is naturally low. However, all sleep doctors can probably list hundreds of patients who swear it helps them sleep and that it is I why I added the comment about giving it a try. Sorry for the confusion. Also, clearly I was not trying to generate a comprehensive list of alll the things that people can do to try to stay cool.

    July 22, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa Shives MD

      Yikes! Just made a typo in my reply ". . . and that it is I why I . . . " It should read " and that is why I added the comment . . .
      SORRY! I do care amount grammar and usage, really I do. Who can tell me the past tense of lie (as in to be at rest)?
      Better still, when is it ever correct to say between you and I?

      July 22, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  22. Willow

    It's funny that this article does not mention low carb diets. They are incredibly popular and have been known to lead to sleep disorders. Our bodies need some carbs. Obviously, you don't want to eat the wrong kinds of carbs. You also want to eat them in moderation. A little brown rice or a few sweet potatoes are good for you.

    August 15, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Javi

    To Lisa Shives, calm down. No one is judging you on your grammar. The only one's who do are the ones who have nothing better to say. It makes them feel good.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jeepney Cat

    Here in steamy Manila a simple, cheap electric fan will do the trick.

    August 20, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. TexanGirl

    I live in a tiny west Texas town and it has been super hot this year (but its usually hot every year), just today it was 108 degrees and its been this hot (above 100 every day, and not havin no rain dont help.) since may! The best way to keep cool at night is to take as cold of a shower as you can get your water (the heat even keeps our water from being very cold.) before bed, have every available fan goin in your bedroom, wear as little clothing as possible and if you must sleep with covers use a very thin sheet. This is the voice of experience talking, ive lived in hot old Texas my whole life and the heat comes with it.

    August 25, 2011 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. billy

    I usually just get naked, eat a lot of food, have 2 hours of intercourse and then try reading a book that is boring that will usually knock me out.

    August 25, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chiyo

      Um, DISGUSTING! No one wants to read that...

      September 22, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  27. Suzi M.

    Buy a fan!!!

    August 30, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Rob

    Rub one out

    September 25, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Susan

    People slept just fine for thousands & thousands of years before air conditioning & electric fans were invented, so I think it is largely hype & the power of suggestion except for those w/ certain health problems. I never went to a school w/ AC until I was in grad school and now they let kids out of school if it is "too hot" or the AC breaks down. I think it is largely a matter of most of us having experienced both and liking the AC better. I could not afford to turn the AC on this summer and, you know what, I did not die & lived just fine w/o it.

    September 27, 2011 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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