A follow up to our previous story on winter sleep, here’s a look at how to sleep well during the warmer months. By Sabeha Syed.
Many of us heave a sigh of relief as the days get longer, temperatures climb and the opportunity to spend more time outdoors after winter’s hibernation makes a welcome return. But, for some of us, spring and summer can be a mixed blessing as hay fever kicks in and summer’s record temperatures threaten to put a full night’s sleep beyond our grasp. Read on for tips to help ease hay fever symptoms and keep your cool between the sheets.
Last year’s sustained high temperatures certainly made it a summer to remember. In fact, the summer of 2018, according to the Met Office, was the warmest since 2006, sunniest since 1995 – and the driest since 2003. That, together with the fact we snow in March, as well as some significant rainfall and spells of sunshine, resulted in a high pollen count. All this can make for uncomfortable, sleepless nights. But, there are ways to help you get that much needed shut eye, come the spring and summer, so it’s worth thinking ahead to what might help.
Help with hay fever
Irritated, watering eyes, sneezing and a runny, itchy or blocked nose… Coping with hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis, as it’s also known) symptoms caused by pollen can be a case of trial and error, as you try to find the best combination of treatments to help you get through the days and nights. Nasal congestion, caused by hay fever, can make it hard to breathe, especially at night – leaving you foggy headed and exhausted during the day. Night after night of poor sleep as a result of hay fever can impact on life at home and work.
- When you’re out and about, wear wraparound sunglasses to help keep pollen from sticking to your eyelashes and out of your eyes.
- Apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline), or a nasal barrier balm, just inside the nostrils, which can help to stop pollen from sticking to the lining of your nose.
- When you’ve spent the day outdoors, pollen can stick to your skin, hair and eyelashes – particularly if the pollen count is high. So, it’s a good idea to wash your face and hands regularly during the day, as well as having a shower and changing your clothes when you get back indoors.
- Showering before bed, too, can help to remove pollen from hair, eyelashes and your skin, preventing it sticking to your bedding. And, if the weather isn’t too uncomfortably warm, a hot, steamy shower can help to clear your sinuses. Changing in a separate room, leaving your clothes elsewhere, can help prevent introducing pollen into your bedroom.
- Keeping your bedroom clean is important, too, as it can help you prevent dust mites and allergens, such as pollen, from building up. Hoovering regularly and dusting with a damp cloth, so that pollen is effectively taken up off surfaces rather than spread around the room even further, can help.
- If it’s cool enough, keep your windows and doors closed to avoid as much pollen as possible settling in your bedroom – particularly during periods when the pollen count is at its highest. Obviously, keeping windows closed can be a challenge in the hotter weather (see, ‘Beating the heat’, below), but keeping the pollen out can help to minimise your symptoms so you get a better night’s sleep.
- Hang any bedding and nightwear up to dry on an airer indoors to avoid them picking up pollen. As frustrating as this can be when it’s good weather for drying your washing quickly outside, this can help you keep your bedroom more of a pollen-free zone
Beat the heat
When we have long, hot summers, like the one we had in the UK last year (2018), it’s tempting to burn the candle at both ends, getting out of our usual sleep routine and enjoying every extra minute of unusually warm nights and longer days. The hot and sticky nights of 2018 also left many of us struggling to get enough sleep.
But, if you’re finding a hectic social life, as well as longer days, extra daylight and hot weather are playing havoc with your sleep routine at this time of year, read on for tips to help you get you back on track:
- STICK TO A ROUTINE: Many of us welcome the longer summer days – lifting our spirits after the darker autumn and winter nights. But, socialising aside, the lighter evenings – up to around 10pm – can make it difficult to wind down and get to sleep. Start your usual evening and sleep routine about an hour or so before you go to bed – you could even consider closing the curtains or blinds in your bedroom, and elsewhere if possible, to help limit your exposure to daylight and help you wind down.
- KEEP IT DARK: Blackout blinds or curtains will help prevent the early morning sunrise at this time of year from waking you up, as well as keeping out the longer, lighter summer evenings. Keeping the blinds drawn during the day can help to keep the bedroom cooler at night, preventing the sun’s heat warming it up and so making for a restless, sweaty night.
- KEEP IT COOL: Along with a dark bedroom, opt for just a cotton sheet or a summer duvet, which has a lower tog rating. Putting a clean pillow case in the fridge before you go to bed, snuggling up to a hot water bottle full of ice cold water and running an electric fan with a tray of ice cubes in front of it, can all help cool you down on those hot summer nights, too. And, if you’re not a hay fever sufferer, opening windows and interior doors to create a through draught for an hour, or longer, before you go to bed, can help to cool down areas of your home.
- DRESS LIGHT: Opt for light, cotton nightwear – or don’t wear anything at all. You could also try putting a pair of clean socks in the fridge before you go to bed. Chilled socks make for cool feet, which will bring your skin and body temperature down, too.
- TAKE THE PLUNGE: A cool bath or shower before bedtime can help cool you down, and it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of cold water to keep you hydrated. Keep a glass of water by your bed, too.
- EAT & DRINK LIGHT: It’s also a good idea not to eat a big meal or drink too much alcohol before bed. This can help you avoid waking up dehydrated in the middle of the night or being kept awake due to overactive digestion.
- SPACE IT OUT: If possible, try to keep some distance between you and your partner, so you can both keep your cool. Ideally, next time you’re buying one, a bigger double bed (minimum 5ft) can help, so that you both have enough space between and you don’t disturb each other’s sleep.
GENERAL SLEEP TIPS
Hot weather and hay fever aside, if you’re having trouble sleeping at any time of year, in addition to the tips above, consider the following, too…
- Follow a regular bedtime routine, which can help you keep your sleep on track – or get it back on track if you’re having trouble sleeping. This includes setting regular times for going to bed.
- Get up at roughly the same time each day, even at the weekends (when it’s tempting to have a long lie-in!).
- Steer clear of caffeinated drinks after 4pm.
- Avoid using your mobile, computer or tablet, or watching TV before bed as the blue light waves of back-lit devices can affect your body clock.
- Write a list of your worries, and any ideas about how to solve them, before going to bed to help you forget about them until the morning.
- Make sure your phone is turned off and in another room. Feeling that you always need to be available can make it much more difficult to switch off mentally and wind down. If you do wake up, or can’t get to sleep, it also means that you won’t be tempted to take a quick look at any messages.
- Relax before bed time – having a warm bath or listening to calming music can help.
- Use thick curtains or blackout blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise.
- Avoid exercise for a few hours before going to bed.
- Try to avoid taking a nap during the day.
DIABETES AND SLEEP: If your diabetes is affecting you at night due to hypos and hypers, talk to your diabetes team about it. And, keep your meter and hypo treatments by your bed.
- If your insulin or diabetes medication is causing hypos, you may find that nocturnal or night-time hypos may affect you without you realising it. However, in the morning, these hypos might leave you feeling like you have a hangover, even if you didn’t drink any alcohol the night before. You might remember having vivid dreams, too.
- High sugar levels at night, however, can leave you weary the next day. Hypers affect your sleep – making you restless and warm, and giving you headaches or leaving you feeling thirsty. You could experience interrupted sleep due to a lot of trips to the loo, too. All of this can significantly impact on the quality of your sleep.
News items and features like this appear in the Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal (see below). We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes ‘kit’ such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring equipment) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet including a regular Making Carbs Count column. We just need your email address to subscribe you (it’s free, and you can easily unsubscribe should you wish to).