How MSers Can Find Cool Relief at Bedtime During a Heat Wave
The news is filled with reports of record highs and heat waves all around world. Some people have air-conditioning, while others don’t. Even for those with AC, it’s expensive and can be inefficient or underperforming in one’s bedroom.
For people with MS, it can be almost impossible to avoid getting overheated during a heat wave. But you need to do all you can to maintain a comfortable core body temperature, and that includes not just during the day, but as you sleep. Good sleep will help keep your MS in remission.
Check out these mostly free solutions for keeping cool at bedtime so you can get the sleep you need.
Remember, these are temporary solutions… unless you live in a climate that is hot-hot-hot all summer long! In which case, your best investment may be in an excellent air conditioning system for your home.
Full-body cool-down ideas
- Soak your feet in a bucket of cold water right before bed. Keep the same bucket at bedside with ice cubes in it in case you need a fresh dunk after midnight.
- Similarly, take a cold shower or bath (getting your hair wet) right before bed to help reduce core body temperature.
- Try sleeping in the nude.
- Treat sunburns proactively (better yet, don’t go out in the sun if you don’t need to!). Burned skin leads to feeling overwarm at bedtime.
- Use cooling aloe on the skin at bedtime even if you don’t have a sunburn.
- Keep the lights off in your bedroom as much as is safely possible. Radiant heat from light bulbs can increase the room’s temperature.
- Cold water right before bed is a simple way to lower your body’s core temperature. Keep a pitcher of ice water nearby for midnight hot flashes.
- Wear a lightly soaked or frozen bandanna around your neck at bedtime.
- Sleep alone. Your loved one will not love you less! Shared body heat isn’t a great wave to sleep during a heat wave. They’ll benefit, too!
Window “engineering” to maximize coolness
- If the exterior of your house is warmer than the interior, keep windows closed at night; or, if the exterior of your house is cooler than the interior, keep windows open at night (if you have a digital indoor-outdoor thermometer, set up the outdoor sensor so that it is right outside your bedroom for instant readouts)
- Does your house have a shady side? Opening the windows on that side can help bring in cool air.
- Keep your windows closed (and covered by window treatments) if they face the sunny side.
- If you’re in the northern hemisphere, keep all window treatments facing the south, east, or west closed to block out the sun, no matter what time of day. (For the southern hemisphere, block sun coming from the north, east, or west.)
- If you can utilize an open window in your bedroom, hang a wet sheet in front of it (especially if there is a cross breeze). Keep a spritz bottle filled with water nearby to keep it damp in the middle of the night.
- Also for an open bedroom window: place stationary fans in front of the window to accelerate and direct the breeze toward your sleeping spot
Change up your sleeping space
- Remember that heat rises. Sleep in the basement or on the ground floor until the heat wave passes.
- Don’t stress if you can’t sleep at night; make a plan to nap in a cool space during the day instead.
- Close the doors to unused rooms and close the air conditioning vents so that you can redirect air-conditioned air specifically to your bedroom. If you have a shady yard, try sleeping outside where the air is cooler, if practical.
- Don’t have AC but have a friend or family member who does? Ask if you can crash at their place. They’ll understand.
Customized bedding arrangements
- Freeze your sheets! Keep a set of sheets in the freezer in a plastic bag; replace your sheets every night with the frozen ones right at bedtime. This requires a process every night and every morning, but it could be well worth it.
- Ditch the blankets and comforters; replace with a sheet that you spritz with water. Keep a spritz bottle nearby to refresh the sheet (and your face) at night.
- If you have more than one pillow, keep two or three nearby. If you feel your head sweating, swap out the overwarm pillow for a fresh new pillow. Keep cycling through as necessary.
- Placing a frozen or damp towel on your pillow can help keep you cool.
Air conditioning and fan tips and tricks
- If you don’t have AC, make one: set a shallow roasting pan full of ice in front of a fan, then turn on the fan. The fan’s breeze over the top of the ice will be cool and mist-like.
- Set your ceiling fan blades to spin counter-clockwise at a higher speed to push hot air down and create a wind-chill effect.
- To remove hot air in upstairs bedrooms, turn on fans in adjacent bathrooms to pull hot air up and out of the house.
Good sleep hygiene
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, as they can have a warming effect on the body’s core temperature, and they can also disrupt sleep patterns.
- Eat smaller meals at dinnertime and avoid hot, fatty, highly caloric foods. Stick with cold plates, salads, and other no-cook fare. Heavy meals cause your digestive system to generate more body heat.
- Stick to cooling beverages at night. If you like sleep-inducing tea or decaf at night, consider making it iced during a heat wave.
These are items you may not have on hand but are fairly inexpensive to purchase.
- Freeze a gel-filled eye mask and put it on at bedtime.
- Use your hot water bottle or heatable buckwheat pack or pillow for cooling down: freeze water in the hot water bottle or tuck the buckwheat pack or pillow in the freezer.
- Purchase herbal cooling towelettes or cold compresses and apply them to the base of the neck, pulse points at the wrists and ankles, inside the elbows, around the groin, and behind the knees.
- Buy and place multiple fans in your bedrooms and hallways to keep the air circulating if you don’t have air conditioning.
- Look for those small misting hand fans at the store; keep these in the fridge, “locked and loaded,” until bedtime to use for quick cooling.
- Make a cooling essential oil body mist and spray this on your feet or areas where you have glands (armpits, groin) or at the base of your neck. Peppermint and eucalyptus are great for cooling off the skin.
- Quick recipe: Combing 1 cup distilled water, 1 tablespoon witch hazel, and 20 to 30 drops of peppermint oil; pour into a spray container, seal tightly, shake, and you’re good to go. Always shake well before using.
Some of these solutions may cost a bit more but could be just the ticket if you live in a place that experiences frequent heat waves.
- Wear moisture wicking pajamas, if you can find them.
- Try sleeping in a cooling vest.
- Install an in-window fan or air-conditioning cabinet if you need additional cool air in your bedroom.
- Invest in room darkening shades in your bedroom to deflect heat.
- Purchase a high-tech pillow known as a “chillow.” These are manufactured to stay cool all night long.
- Try sleeping in an indoor hammock with fans circulating air both over and under you.
- If sleeping outside, but you’re concerned about insects, consider buying a scram, tent, or canopy made of see-through mesh netting to create a bug-free outdoor bedroom space that allows for air to circulate.
- Use high-quality cotton sheets; they are a better choice than polyester, satin, or silk because they are breathable and promote ventilation. Flannel sheets are too cozy and better used during the winter.
- If you’re going to sleep on an air mattress temporarily, choose one with a flocked top and/or a layer of cooling gel to keep down contact perspiration.
- If you’re making home improvements, make a point to include an efficient air-conditioning system in those plans (especially in your bedroom) if your current situation does not effectively address your needs during heat waves.
As appealing as it may sound, do not sleep in a car while its motor is running to use the air conditioning! This can be dangerous, illegal, even fatal. Accidents can occur as well as carbon monoxide poisoning and damage to the vehicle itself.
If you cannot cool down, and you have a cooling center in your neighborhood, don’t be afraid to take advantage. People die from heat stroke every year during heat waves unnecessarily when they could have used the services of a cooling center.