Tips for sleeping well during a heat wave

What you do before getting into bed can diminish the sleep disruption of high temperatures.

Media Contact: Barbara Clements, 253-740-5043,

Quality sleep can be hard to come by during a heat wave, especially for those who don’t have air conditioning. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Housing Survey, about 53% of homes in the Seattle metro area have air conditioning, compared with 92% nationally. 

Dr. Martha "Molly" Billings, a physician at the Sleep Medicine Center at Harborview, suggested this pre-bedtime routine: 

  • Limit excess bedding. 
  • Circulate air around your bedroom with a fan in front of an open window. 
  • Drink cold water. 
  • Don’t exercise vigorously in the evening. 

Consistent sound such as white noise might also provide comfort or distraction. 

“Some white noise I think can be helpful to kind of cut down on the environmental noises, because everyone has their window open,” said Billings, an associate professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. 

Showering before bed can also be beneficial, she said. A warm or cool water, depending on your preference, may help you cool down. 

“Take a hot shower to kind of vasodilate or taking a cool shower and just getting especially your head wet,” said Billings. “That can really cool your body down and then kind of relax you as well.”   

Download broadcast-ready soundbites featuring Dr. Billings' tips for sleep during hot weather.

UW Medicine