For many, the?sunshine?we're expecting?this?week?conjures?up images of dripping?ice-cream?cones, sparkling seas and sandy?sandwiches, but with an?orange?weather warning in place, and night-time?temperatures?not set to?drop much below 20 degrees?Celsius, for others,?it’s?a very different prospect – tossing and turning, damp pillows and?broken?sleep. On Today with Claire Byrne,?Andrew?Coogan,?Behavioural?Neuroscientist and Director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Research Laboratory at Maynooth University?had advice for catching?Zs?after a day spent catching rays:?
"There's?a couple of very?practical?things we can do to help us deal with the heat. We can make sure we stay hydrated during the day – that's really?important?in general?in this type of weather."?
And what about once we’re in our jammies???
"We lose most of our body heat?through?our?extremities;?though?our head, our hands, our feet, so before we go to bed, if we can have a cooling?shower, a?very tepid bath or even just wet our hair.?I?know that’s?anathema?to generations of?Irish?mammies,?going to bed with a wet head. [...]?Even just soak?your?feet in a basin of water?before?bed; that’ll help?us lower our core body temperature."??
Other?tips?include?making?sure there’s a glass of water on your?bedside?locker?so you don’t need to get up in the middle of the night, and perhaps if you share a bed,?considering?sleeping in a spare room if that’s an option.?And if you do wake, keep your activity to a minimum; no tea and scrolling. Andrew suggests:??
"If you can [...] maybe have a red-bulb light by your bedside [...] because actually we know the brain?doesn't?sense the red light as much. Read a?physical?book, not an e-reader.? Keep your?screens?out of the bedroom."??
And are the?guidelines?the same for kids????
"Small babies we know have difficulty in?the?heat – their thermo-regulation?isn't?as developed as it is when they get older,?so obviously keeping small?kids,?infants and toddlers and babies cool during the day is really?important."??
Andrew also had advice to ensure teenagers?and younger adults get enough good quality sleep, now that?they're?dealing with the?double whammy of?the heat and a change to their usual?schedule:?
"Try to keep a?consistent?bedtime, try to put away the screens for an hour or so?before?bedtime.?Try to refrain from coffee or having any alcohol. Maybe don’t exercise in the evening and?just?try to wind down?towards that bedtime"?
Andrew?explained that teens have a?different?chronotype?to adults?and therefore?have different?sleep?needs:?
"It wouldn’t be?unusual?for a?teenager's?natural bedtime to be?midnight. For an older teenager or a young adult?[it’s]?nothing to do?with?them just wanting to stay up or anything. It’s?actually them?just following their?natural?biology."?
So,?it’s a case of late to bed and late to rise for teens – Andrew had the Irish mammies tearing their hair out again. All that matters is?sufficient?sleep:??????
"The?recommended?sleep duration for adults is?somewhere?between?7- and 9-hours?sleep. But some adults may be fine with 6 hours?sleep,?some adults may need 10 hours sleep. There actually?is quite?a?difference?between?people."??
The advent of activity trackers has had an impact too, with many of us scrutinising our 'sleep scores’ after a fitful night. And while the?algorithm?is improving, our general sense of well-being is a far better barometer. Andrew explained:???
"[There’s] something in sleep medicine called?orthosomnia?- where you actually fixate?on?your sleep scores from your activity tracker and that can be?unhelpful."?
So,?if?you're?feeling ok and?your sleep?scores?are rubbish,you?probably?shouldn't?worry.?If?your?sleep is bad?and?your sleep tracker?agrees, it might be?time to discuss?it?with your general?practitioner,?if you?haven't?already. And this was the nub of Andrews advice when it came to insomnia, maintenance?insomnia?or disturbed sleep in general:???
?"People say,?‘Ah?well,?I?don't?really?want?to bother the doctors with?this,’?but if?it’s really?impacting?on?your life,?this is super important. And the other thing is sleep problems can often be linked with?physical?issues;?in?the majority of? cases ? they're?not,?but in a?significant?minority of cases they are.??So,?if this is something? that’s?going on for more than maybe 3 or 4 days a week for more?than?a month,?I?think it’s worth discussing with a healthcare?provider."???
Andrew also had advice for shift-workers, more suggestions to promote sleep,?and?explained thermo-regulation; you can listen to the full chat here.??