As an adolescent, I had a recurring nightmare that the green villain from Scooby Doo known as The Creeper was chasing me through a roller skating rink. I’ve since outgrown this terrifying (and, yes, comical) edition of “What is my mind?” But now that New York City—and much of the East Coast, apparently—is in the thick of a record-breaking heat wave, The Creeper’s lackeys have returned to haunt my dreams. Unsurprisingly, in fact, since balmy summer evenings have been linked with less-than-serene dreams.
Neil Stanley, PhD, ex-chairman of the British Sleep Society, told Daily Mail that warmer rooms are basically a pressure cooker for nightmares. “In order for us to get a good night’s sleep, we need to lose around 1°C of our internal body temperature, which sits at around 37°C (99°F),” Dr. Stanley said. While that heat typically escapes via our head, which isn’t tucked under the duvet, that’s not the case when your bedroom feels more like a sauna. “If you’re sleeping in a room which is too warm, your body’s core temperature is unable to lose that heat and your sleep will be disturbed,” said the doc. As a result you’re more likely to experience rapid eye movement, and your dreams will be vivid, easier to recall in the a.m., and yes—way more frightening than usual.
“If you’re sleeping in a room which is too warm, your body’s core temperature is unable to lose that heat and your sleep will be disturbed.” — Neil Stanley, PhD
In an ideal air conditioned situation, you’d get your best shut-eye between 60°F to 68°F throughout the course of the heat wave to keep your body’s internal temperature at an average of 98.6°F, according to sleep expert Adam Tishman. Besides cranking the AC, Dr. Stanley also recommends eating dinner nice and early (chowing down too late can raise your body temp!) and sleeping under natural fiber sheets made of cotton, linen, or silk. As I can attest, more extreme measures—like tossing a couple dozen ice cubes directly into bed—can’t hurt either.
The heatwave is set to break next week. Until then keep it cool, everyone—for the sake of your REM.
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