8 tips to help you embrace the chill and enjoy better sleep
Remember that story about Goldilocks and the three bears? Every sleeper can relate to her in some way when trying to create the perfect environment for a long, restorative snooze. A room that’s too hot isn’t good for us. But one that’s too cold isn’t conducive to great sleep either. Where is that sweet spot where our bodies are most comfortable?
We’ve got tips, expert answers and scientific research to back them up.
Feeling hot, hot, hot between the sheets
What happens when you’re too toasty in bed? Certainly, not sleep. In order for you to fall asleep, there needs to be a drop in your core body temperature. A balmy summer night or too many blankets will disrupt this natural process called thermoregulation. It’s tied to circadian rhythms as well as your body’s own clock that regulates sleep and awake cycles. A room that’s too hot will throw off your ability to fall asleep.
But your body temperature changes throughout the night. Early on, it drops, then raises as morning approaches. That’s why you might wake up feeling overheated. It’s no fault of your blankets or your warm partner next to you. This underscores the importance of keeping your room on the cool side, whether it’s with a fan, sticking your feet out of the sheets, cracking open a window or taking a few sips of cool water.
Sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus suggests allowing your body to cool down two or three hours before bedtime. If you like a warm bath before you hit the hay, do it at least a couple hours before you plan to sleep. That also applies to exercise. Time your run or your yoga session for late afternoon or early evening instead right before you plan to sleep.
Cold comfort delivers better sleep
Feeling a bit cool is a good thing for sleep as your body needs a lower core temperature early in the sleep cycle. Many insomniacs struggle with temperature regulation and experience difficulties in falling asleep because they tend to have a higher body core temperature. One study at the University of Pittsburgh used cooling caps to keep sleepers’ heads at a lower temperature and it found that even those with insomnia slept better during the study.
Embracing the chill can improve your quality of rest in a number of ways, including encouraging the production of melatonin, a key hormone for sleep. It will also help you fall asleep more quickly since the body interprets a drop in body temperature as a signal to go to sleep. Feeling too chilly though can also be detrimental. Cold feet will definitely keep you awake so consider putting on a pair of socks to warm up your tootsies.
8 tips to get your bedroom to the right temperature for sleep
- Experts say that 65F (18C) is a good nighttime average. Some people have a tendency to sleep a bit cold (those with circulation issues) or hot (i.e., women going through menopause) so aim for somewhere between 60-67F (15-19C) for a comfortable sleep.
- Add a programmable thermostat to your bedroom. Take out the guesswork on how low to go with your air conditioning and how much heat your furnace will pump out in different areas of the house.
- Keep peace in your relationship when one partner runs hot and the other cold. Use a light layer of bed linens, adding blankets instead of getting a night divorce. You can also deal with the difference in preferred sleeping temperature by adjusting your sleep attire. Cozy up with flannel pajamas, if you’re a chilly type, while your bedmate can wear a cotton T-shirt.
- Pick your mattress wisely. Mattresses with coils and spring at the core with a layer of foam on top are good for transferring heat and for keeping sleepers cooler. Latex is a good material as well since it doesn’t conduct heat and is well ventilated with air channels. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind, the softer the mattress, the more heat it will retain. Want to keep cool? Opt for a firmer model. That’s especially relevant advice for heavier sleepers who weigh more than 200 pounds tend to sleep warmer. A soft mattress causes the body to sink in more, raising body temperature.
- Get a wool-filled comforter. “That’s my no. 1 tip regarding sleep and temperature,” says James Wilkinson, a sleep hygiene consultant. “They allow each person to maintain their own optimal temperature. This is because wool is partially made of keratin, a compound found in our own skin and nails, that wicks heat and moisture away from our bodies. For example, research shows that wool will remove 67% more moisture than feather or down over an 8-hour period.”
- Choose sheets based on your unique temperature preferences. Your choice of sheets will affect your sleep quality. Poly/cotton blends have a tendency to hold heat, while cotton sheets are cooler and more breathable. Bamboo sheets are becoming more popular because of their ability to wick moisture and some say they’re cooler against the skin than cotton.
- Consider a buckwheat pillow for cooler sleep. The buckwheat hulls allow air to circulate well. Foam pillows are less breathable and can cause you to overheat.
- Top your bed off the right way. You may benefit from the temperature stabilization that comes with a mattress topper, whether it’s wool or cotton. A layer between you and your mattress assists with that all-important airflow.
- Ensure a dark, dark room for better sleep. A good set of heavy curtains will do wonders to keep your bedroom dark – another important condition to set the stage for good sleep – but they will also help regulate the temperature in your bedroom. They block out sun and heat in the summer and keep winter bedrooms from getting too chilly with heat loss around windows.