Recent weeks have seen soaring temperatures in the UK – and the warmth is always welcome. Sunshine is good for topping up vitamin D levels and boosting our levels of serotonin, the body’s natural “happy” hormone.
There is a “but”, though – very high temperatures can make it difficult to sleep at night, and recent research has actually shown that long-term sleep loss can result in loss of brain cells. Can complementary therapies and other tactics help to restore a sense of coolness to the body which will then aid sleep?
Acupuncture is often used to provide relief from menopause symptoms – hot flushes and night sweats can be particularly problematic for menopausal women at this time of the year. Chinese acupuncture can be used to restore the body’s equilibrium by correcting the flow of an individual’s qi, or vital energy.
Knowing the lifestyle triggers which will make you hot and uncomfortable is useful as you can avoid them when it is very hot. A long, cool drink may be appealing in the evening, but alcohol will disturb your sleep.
Initially, alcohol causes the capillaries to dilate which causes that tell-tale flush of the skin. This does, however, divert heat from the core of the body. Binge drinking (drinking more than your liver can process in an hour) will cause sweating and flushes, so stick to water or one drink in the summer evenings if you want to keep cool.
Caffeine and Spicy Foods
Caffeine and spicy foods can also make you too warm, so stick to decaffeinated, sugar-free drinks (sugar warms the blood), and save the spices for autumn and winter.
This can be easier said than done – most homes in the UK do not have air conditioning, so keeping your home cool in the heat isn’t easy. Keeping the curtains shut during the day and a window open will bring the temperature of the room down slightly, and you should invest in light covers for the bed. It might be an idea to sleep on your own (sorry!) as bed partners contribute a great deal to the heat in a bed, and choose natural fabrics for your bed. Silk is particularly cooling.
Certain teas and herbs can have cooling effects on the body and they might prove useful if you drink them through the day. They include peppermint, roast barley and white chrysanthemum teas. Sage leaves brewed and then left to cool can also help with excessive body heat.
Stress and warm nights are a very bad combination. When your mind races and you can’t get to sleep because of the temperature it can feel like a vicious circle. Consider any therapy which encourages relaxation before bedtime, such as an evening reflexology session, or a gentle yoga class.
Sugar warms the blood, so the higher your diet is in sugar, the warmer you are likely to feel. Obvious sugar sources are ice-creams, fizzy drinks, cakes, sweets and biscuits, but highly processed foods such as chips, crisps, white bread break are broken down into glucose by the body. Stick to a diet of plenty of fresh vegetables, some fruit, lean proteins, beans and pulses during the summer months for maximum health and good sleep.