5 heatwave myths debunked by experts – and how you should really be staying cool at home

There are lots of old wives' tales when it comes to heatwaves – here is what you should be avoiding and what really works

A rusty electric fan in front of an open window, beside a wooden table with a salt and pepper shaker on it
(Image credit: Alamy)

Heatwaves seem to be becoming the norm, and the immense heat just isn't letting up. As a result, many of us are turning to every possible solution to try to stay cool – but some common heatwave myths may be getting in the way.

Knowing exactly what not to do in a heatwave can be tricky in a world of misinformation, but some of these common tricks are actually just myths, according to the pros. 

Here are the five most common heatwave myths you may have heard, and what the experts really think of them as solutions for staying cool at home. 

Heatwave myths debunked  

Just because something seems to be common knowledge, doesn't mean it is effective at helping to keep a home cool in a heatwave – here is what to avoid, and what really works.  

1. You should keep your windows and doors closed in a heatwave – True

dining area with large windows

(Image credit: Future PLC)

You may have heard the claim that keeping windows and doors closed in a heatwave is better than opening them, and you may have thrown this idea out as silly – I know I certainly have. But Taras Stomin, HVAC account manager at Home Alliance insists that this claim is, in fact, true! And it is one of the best home remedies to stay cool without spending.  

‘I can confidently say that keeping all your windows and doors closed during a heatwave is generally a more effective strategy for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment and reducing the strain on your HVAC system,’ they share, and there are several reasons why:

‘Opening windows and doors during a heatwave allows hot air from the outside to enter your home, increasing the indoor temperature,’ Taras explains. ‘By keeping them closed, you can prevent heat gain and retain the cooler air your air conditioning system produces. 

‘Closing windows and doors also helps to insulate your home against hot air, allowing your HVAC system to operate more efficiently. When the cool air is contained within your living spaces, the air conditioner doesn't have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in lower energy consumption and helping you save money at home.

‘Finally, closing windows and doors helps prevent high indoor humidity levels that can make the indoor environment feel even hotter and uncomfortable.’

That being said, there are some instances where opening your doors and windows may be beneficial, Taras adds. ‘During cooler evenings or early mornings when outdoor temperatures drop significantly, you can strategically open windows for cross-ventilation to allow cooler air to flow through the house.’

2. Sleeping nude helps you stay cool at night – Myth

A magnolia bed with linen sheets on with a large vase beside it

(Image credit: Magnolia)

There are several heatwave sleeping mistakes many of us make without knowing it, and sleeping in our birthday suits is one of them, even though it seems to be against all logic.

‘This is a common belief, and while it may seem tempting to sleep with no clothes on during a heatwave, I've found that this can potentially worsen your sleep,’ begins Josh Mitchell, HVAC technician and founder of Air Conditioner Lab. ‘When I once tried sleeping without pajamas, I discovered that sweat actually collected on my body and remained there, making me feel hotter. The next night, I switched to lightweight, breathable pajamas and felt considerably more comfortable and cooler – it is a great tip for sleeping in warm weather.

‘Even if it feels excessively hot, remember that your body temperature will drop during the night, so it's important to ensure comfort throughout your sleep cycle.’

It is not just good quality lightweight pajamas, such as these linen pajamas from Net-A-Porter that can help you sleep cooler, picking up some of the best cooling bed sheets certainly doesn't hurt either.

Josh Mitchell ACLAB
Josh Mitchell

Josh is an HVAC expert and the owner of the Air Conditioner Lab with years of experience tackling the challenge of home cooling. Josh has explored various innovative methods to cool down living spaces during hot weather.

3. Freezing a pillow can make sleeping in a heatwave easier – True

Pillowcases and shams on decorative neutral bed

(Image credit: Sunday Ciziten)

Freezing anything except for food may sound a bit strange, but freezing your pillows can really help you to settle before sleep, claims Amanda Wilson, director of product strategy for Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning

‘It can certainly help reduce your body temperature but may not be the answer for everyone,’ she warns. ‘A cool pillow will draw heat from your body which can make you feel cooler and fall asleep easier – even if it doesn't help to keep a bedroom cool.’

When freezing your pillow, it is important to place the pillowcase in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet and place it in the freezer for at least two hours before you go to bed, letting it sit to thaw for a few minutes before adding the pillowcase back on and using it, Amanda says.

4. Cool showers help you stay cool – Myth

Stone steps

(Image credit: Amanda Gunawan)

If cooling a room hasn’t worked quite enough, then it can be tempting to jump into a cool shower or bath to rapidly decrease your skin temperature, but doing so is not only dangerous but doesn't work, warns Josh Mitchell, air conditioning expert.

‘Cool showers provide immediate relief from the heat, but the effect is quite temporary. I once tried taking a cold shower before bed during a particularly hot night, and while it felt refreshing at first, the cool effect didn't last long. On the other hand, a lukewarm shower removed heat from my skin more effectively and helped me settle down for a comfortable sleep.’

Plunging yourself into freezing water on a hot day can also be rather dangerous and possibly lead to shock as your body goes from one extreme temperature to another. It is important to note that shock isn't just being a little startled by the sudden change, but the serious bodily reaction that can shut down important systems. Use lukewarm water that is a little cooler than the ambient air temperature, and no cooler.

5. Drinking hot drinks makes you feel cooler – Inconclusive

Nespresso pod coffee machine on a countertop

(Image credit: Nespresso)

You may have seen people drinking hot tea and coffee even when it is sweltering outside and wondered if they had gone mad. In reality, however, they have the right idea, and drinking hot drinks could help to lower your body temperature, Amanda Wilson, of Service Experts Heating and Air Conditioning confirms. 

‘This may seem counter-intuitive, but drinking a hot drink can make you feel cooler during a heatwave. A study by researchers at the University of Ottawa found that people who drank hot water while cycling in hot weather stored less heat in their bodies than those who drank cold water. The researchers believe that this is because the hot water caused the cyclists to sweat more, which helped them to cool down.’

This heatwave trick is very dependent on your environment and how humid your home is, however, warns Josh Mitchell, HVAC technician – this means it doesn't work for everyone, all of the time. 

‘It's important to note that in high humidity, sweat doesn't evaporate as efficiently. Instead, I have found staying hydrated with cool water to be the most effective in maintaining a steady body temperature and avoiding dehydration in these instances,’ he shares.

The good news is, if you have one of the best dehumidifiers, this may be a good trick for you to try at home.  


What is the fastest way to cool a hot house?

If your house is full of hot air, then the quickest way to cool it down would be to use an air conditioner and a dehumidifier to help reduce how muggy your home feels. If you do not have an AC, using fans with frozen water bottles behind them can help to replicate this effect. You should avoid opening your windows and doors if the air outside your home is the same temperature or hotter, as this will undo your hard work. Only open the windows early in the morning and late at night if the outside air temperature falls to help let hot air escape.  

How do you survive a heatwave indoors?

In seriously hot temperatures, it is important to minimize physical activity, drink plenty of cool water, and use fans, AC, or open windows where possible to help keep your home's internal temperature cool. Use thermal curtains to help block out the sun's rays throughout the day, and open higher-up windows in your home, such as in the attic, to let hot air that rises escape more easily. You may also want to consider a dehumidifier if you are finding it difficult to sweat. Most importantly, if you feel like you are in danger from the heat, contact friends, family, or professionals who may be able to come to your aid. 

Keeping cool in a heatwave shouldn't be left down to chance and myth, and it is important to remember that there is help available if you feel you are unable to cope with the high temperatures at home. Cooling centers have been set up across the US, and are open to those who need relief from the heat when they do not have AC units readily available to them where they are. Calling or visiting the website of your state's 2-1-1 can help you find resources for extreme heat. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.