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Tips for better quality sleep in tropical temperatures

As parts of Finland continue to swelter in an exceptional heat wave, experts from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health give 5 tips to improve sleep.

Image: Seppo Sarkkinen / Yle

Finland has basked in unusual tropical night temperatures over the last few weeks, with more balmy nights to follow. As the heat can negatively impact one’s sleep, Yle collected tips for more restful nights from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

1. Don’t stress or work too hard in the evenings

Vigorous sports raise the body’s temperature, which makes sleeping difficult. If possible, it’s better to do exercise in the mornings. Physically taxing work should also be stopped well before bedtime.

While Finnish Institute of Occupational Health research professor Hannu Rintamäki advises to avoid heavy physical activities before going to bed, he does not rule out all work.

“The purpose of sleep is to restore humans both physically and mentally. If work makes it more difficult to fall asleep, then it’s bad. However, if something is bothering you, it’s good to get it done before going to bed,” the professor says.

2. Avoid excessive coffee, alcohol and spicy food

It’s good to drink plenty during a heat wave, but too much coffee or alcohol should be avoided.

“Alcohol weakens the restorative effect of sleep – no matter what the temperature. One portion will do no harm, but having many just before falling asleep is not recommended,” Rintamäki advises.

Caffeine can actually work more powerfully in a hot climate, if the body’s fluid balance fluctuates as a result of sweating.

“In general, it’s not a good idea to drink lots of hot drinks when going to bed,” says the professor.

Very spicy foods can also cause sweating, which is why these should not be eaten near bedtime.

3. Cool down the bedroom

When the weather is hot, it’s good to keep curtains shut also in the daytime, so the place isn’t warmed up too much by the sun.

“The room where you sleep should be kept cool also in the daytime, so it doesn’t heat up too much. I recommend curtains and a draft, when possible. You could also consider a fan,” professor Rintamäki notes.

He adds that one should also be careful not to leave on devices that generate heat – such as computers – in the bedroom for prolonged periods.

4. Don’t use blankets or pyjamas, if not necessary

“Just sleeping with a duvet cover can help,” advises Jussi Virkkala, another researcher from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“A sheet does the job of a blanket, if you want to be covered by something,” Rintamäki adds.

If reducing clothes or blankets does not help, one can also try refrigerating pillowcases, or putting a hot water bottle filled with cool water inside one’s pillow.

5. Take a shower before going to bed

According to professor Rintamäki, a long, cool shower will help catching sleep if the indoors temperature is high. However, the shower should not be too cold.

Yle meteorologist Joonas Koskela also relies on this tip.

“It’s good to take a shower before going to bed. It cools down the body,” Koskela observes.