How to sleep better during the summer months

Many who suffer with respiratory disorders also find it difficult to sleep at night, often suffering from sleep apnoea and requiring oxygen at night. Extremes of temperatures can affect your sleep and your health.

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Sleep apnoea is caused when the upper throat muscles relax too much during sleep, cutting off or restricting the airway. These episodes, which also cause the oxygen level in the blood to drop, last from 10 seconds to a minute or longer. The brain registers the lack of oxygen and the individual wakes up just enough to open the throat and begin breathing again, starting the cycle over. Most of the time, individuals don’t remember these episodes in the morning, but they severely disrupt the restorative effects of sleep.

Being too hot or too cold can worsen the situation, resulting in disrupted sleep, low oxygen levels, worsening health conditions and drowsiness the following day. Many find using oxygen at night helps to maintain oxygen levels, minimises the frequency of waking up and prevents your respiratory problems from worsening, but if you’re too hot during the summer months you still need to be able to sleep soundly as sleep provides you with so many rejuvenating and healing properties.

The most important factor is the ambient temperature in your bedroom, this needs to be slightly cool in order to help keep your body’s core temperature lower. Otherwise it puts the body clock out of sync and you wont sleep properly. It’s better for it to be a bit nippy as you get into bed as your body will generate heat during the night from metabolism and trying to maintain your body’s core temperature at the correct level.

If you’re lucky enough to have an AC unit then use it, however for the rest of us there are some ways that can help to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
1) Pillows
The head is the hottest part of the body so you want to keep it as cool as possible. Conventional pillows surround your head, trapping in the heat. A smaller, firmer pillow, although less comfy will allow more air circulation.
2) Fans
You can make a cheap version of an AC unit using these three simple household items – an electric fan, a large mixing bowl and some ice cubes. Place the ice cubes in the bowl, in the path of the airflow coming from the fan. The warm air causes the ice to melt, dispersing a cool breeze around the room.
3) Sleep like a Pharaoh
The so-called Egyptian method requires either a bed sheet or a towel large enough to cover your body. Soak the sheet in water, then put it in the washing machine on spin cycle -or just wring it out to stop any dripping. When you go to sleep, cover yourself with the damp sheet. This will keep you cool via latent heat, the same process that sweating uses to cool your body down.
4) Keep the sun out
The sun’s rays are far more powerful in the summer and keeping the blinds down stops the rooms heating up during the day.
5) Change what you eat
Usually when it;s hot you don’t feel like eating big meals anyway but remember that the larger the meal, the more metabolic heat you generate as your body breaks down the food. Try switching to salads, fruits and vegetables that the body can metabolise with less effort. If you cook a lot at home, switching to more raw foods will also mean less cooking, which means less heat being generated inside the house.
6) Location
You could try sleeping in a hammock, as being suspended in mid-air means that air flows all around your body, unlike a mattress which absorbs and reflects your body heat. Lower storeys are generally cooler than upper ones as heat rises. Finally, if all else fails, there’s always outdoors.
If you do use oxygen at night ensure there is air flow in the room and maybe use a dehumidifier, as the equipment may be generating heat while you are trying to sleep. Also check with your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping as they may adjust your oxygen flow rate settings if needed.

References: http://sleepjunkies.com and http://www.sleepapnea.com

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