There are many different factors to getting a good night’s sleep, but one of the most crucial of them all is the temperature of your bedroom.
Experts agree that the thermostat reading has a significant impact on the quality and duration of our sleep, and finding the right balance is key to ensuring we get the rest we need.
Most of us have already decided on the ‘ideal’ temperature range for our bedrooms; some like it nice and cool, while others prefer to crank up the heat and stay as warm and cozy as possible. But if you and your bed-mate disagree, it can lead to an all-out thermostat war.
So, in the never-ending battle of the mercury, is it possible to find a happy medium where everyone gets a better night’s sleep?
The answer, fortunately, is yes!
In this post, I’ll examine the crucial role that temperature has on our sleep and explain what science has to say about the perfect bedroom thermostat setting for people of all ages.
How Does Temperature Affect Sleep?
We’ve all suffered through nights of tossing and turning in a bedroom that’s either too hot or too cold, so it’s no surprise that temperature plays such an important role in our quality of sleep.
But there’s a deeper reason why we might struggle to drift off that goes way beyond how comfortable we feel.
The relationship between temperature and sleep is a matter of human evolution. It all comes down to our circadian rhythm: our natural internal body clock that dictates our sleep-wake cycles. Our bodies are constantly picking up subtle cues that tell us when it’s time to wake up and when to bed down for the night.
This biological response is built into all living beings, but most of us are completely unaware of what an important role it plays. If our thermoregulation is thrown out of balance, we miss out on the deep and restorative stages of sleep we need.
These slow-wave sleep stages, such as REM sleep, are when our bodies get the most rest, and without them, we wake up feeling groggy and tired, which greatly impacts our health.
During any one 24-hour period, our core temperature shifts between 2-3° (3). While that may not sound like a lot, these subtle fluctuations are central to our sleep cycle, dictating exactly when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
When the sun goes down, and it’s time to go to bed, our inner thermostats drop a few degrees, indicating to our brains that it’s time to get some shut-eye. This fall in temperature helps us to nod off faster, but if the environment is too warm, our bodies struggle to regulate, and the finely tuned circadian balance is thrown off-kilter.
The result? A long night of restless sleep, where we never quite reach the stages of slumber we need.
During the day, our core temperature sits at around 98.2°F (37°C). But a couple of hours before we are due to go to sleep, this number slowly begins creeping downwards, which triggers our pineal gland to release the all-important sleep hormone, melatonin.
As we drift off, the temperature continues to fall before slowly rising again throughout the early morning hours until it triggers us to wake up.
The Ideal Temperature for Your Bedroom
So, as you’ve probably already guessed, keeping your bedroom on the cooler end of the thermal scale results in a much better night’s sleep.
The majority of sleep scientists and doctors agree that the ideal temperature range for most adults sits somewhere between 60-67°F (15-19° C).
Where exactly you sit on that scale will depend on your physicality, age, and personal preferences. Still, it’s important to stay within this range to keep your circadian rhythms functioning properly.
1. Specifics By Age
While most adults sleep best in an environment between 60-67°F (15-19°C), elderly people have a slightly narrower thermal window to play with.
Seniors do better on the warmer end of the scale, somewhere between 66-70° F (19-21°C), keeping their bedrooms at a temperature consistent with other rooms in the house.
That’s because as we age, our core body temperature naturally begins to decrease, so it’s important to adjust the ambient temperature around us to compensate for this drop.
One way to keep your bedroom in this warmer range is to crank up the thermostat a couple of degrees to match the target temperature.
But studies have shown that heating your extremities, such as your feet, can also help to regulate your circadian rhythms.
Wearing socks to bed or soaking your feet in a warm bath before you retire accelerates the onset of sleep in elderly people.
So, if you’re over a certain age and you’re struggling to drift off at night, try these tips and see what difference it makes for you.
Similarly, babies also need a slightly warmer and narrower temperature window to get a good night’s rest.
Since an infant’s biological clock is still developing, they’re more susceptible to subtle shifts in temperature.
Ideally, set the thermostat in your little one’s room somewhere between 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C). Any warmer than this, your baby’s circadian rhythm can fall out of balance.
What Happens When Your Bedroom is Too Warm?
If you live in a warm climate, you’ll know how hard it is to fall asleep in a hot, stuffy room.
Not only is it downright uncomfortable when the mercury rises too high, but it’s also much more difficult for our bodies to regulate the correct temperature to trigger us to drift off.
Usually, anything over 72°F (22°C) is enough to disrupt our circadian rhythms and throw our sleep cycle out of balance.
If you’re a person who tends to feel the cold more than others, you might be tempted to crank up the heat and make your bedroom as warm and cozy as possible. But as you can see, this can have a hugely detrimental effect on your sleep quality.
Even if you have no problem drifting off at night, if your bedroom is too warm, chances are you’re missing out on that all-important REM sleep.
The higher your core temperature, the less likely you are to enter into a stage of restorative, slow-wave sleep, and the less well-rested you’ll feel. And not only that, the less time you spend in these deeper sleep phases, the more your immune system suffers. Getting less REM and slow-wave sleep each night leaves your body much more vulnerable to disease and infection and lowers your ability to fight off pathogens when they arise.
So, if you’re somebody who likes to keep their bedroom toasty at all times, why not challenge yourself to lower the thermostat a couple of degrees and see if your sleep cycle and overall health improve.
How to Keep Your Bedroom Cool?
If you live in a northern temperate climate, you might be lucky enough to enjoy a cool bedroom for most months of the year.
But for those who live in a warm or humid part of the world, you might need some extra help to keep your bedroom at the perfect temperature, especially if you don’t have AC.
Here are some tips on cooling down your bedroom, even during the hottest summer months.
1. Keep The Curtains or Blinds Shut During The Day
Avoid a build-up of heat by making the room as dark as possible and protecting it from the sun’s rays during the day.
2. Keep The Windows Open at Night
Once the sun goes down, open up your bedroom windows to allow a cool breeze to circulate around the room.
3. Use a Fan
If you don’t have AC, then a fan is essential during the summer months. For an extra cooling boost, try filling a container with ice cubes and placing it behind the fan. This pushes cold air through the blades and distributes it around the room.
4. Use a Dehumidifier
If the weather is humid and sticky, consider investing in a dehumidifier and running it overnight. You’ll be amazed at how much moisture these machines can remove from the air, plus, the gentle whirr of the motor provides the perfect white noise to help you fall asleep.
5. Sleep on a Lower Level
Heat rises, so the higher your bedroom is, the hotter it will be. If you live in a multi-story house, consider sleeping downstairs during the summer months.
Tips For Keeping Yourself Cool
Even if the bedroom is relatively cool, sometimes, our bodies aren’t. So here are a few tips and tricks to cool yourself down and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
1. Use a Cooling Mattress
Different mattress materials have different thermal properties. Some denser types, such as memory foam, don’t allow the air to circulate, so while they may be super comfortable, they’re not doing your core temperature any favors.
If you don’t want to shell out on a brand-new mattress, there are plenty of cooling mattress toppers on the market these days that can make a big difference.
2. Choose Cotton Sheets
Synthetic fibers can induce sweating, whereas cotton lets your skin breathe, leaving you feeling cooler and more comfortable.
3. Freeze Your Sheets
If choosing the right material isn’t enough to keep you cool, try leaving your sheets and pillowcases in the freezer for a couple of hours, and put them on immediately before you’re ready to go to bed.
4. Take a Warm Bath
Though it might sound counter-intuitive, studies have shown that soaking in a warm bath a couple of hours before hitting the hay can help your body cool down to the perfect temperature needed to fall asleep.
5. Sleep Naked
Why wear clothes if they’re only going to hinder your sleep? Instead, try sailing off into slumberland in your birthday suit!
Dial Down Your Internal Thermostat
Along with the tips above, you can help regulate your core temperature by working in harmony with your own circadian rhythm.
By paying attention to the timing of your day-to-day activities, you can lull your biological clock into a healthy sleep pattern that suits your routine.
1. Reduce Light Levels Before Bed
Dim your living room lights to a low, soft glow in the evening to replicate the setting of the sun. This tricks your brain into lowering your body temperature and releasing that all-important, sleep-inducing melatonin.
2. Avoid Exercise Before Sleep
Exercising in the morning or the afternoon can have a profoundly beneficial effect on the quality of your sleep, but heading off to the gym later in the evening isn’t advised.
When you work out, your core temperature rises, and if you don’t leave enough time for your body to cool down, your inner thermostat will be more likely to keep you awake at night.
3. Don’t Eat Dinner Too Late
Just like exercise, eating can also cause your core to warm up. So, have your last meal at least 2-3 hours before bed to avoid trying to sleep while your body is busy digesting food.
Science has shown that a minor adjustment of the thermostat can have a major impact on the number of zzzs we catch each night.
I hope this post has armed you with the knowledge you need to transform your bedroom into a cooling sanctuary for deep and restorative sleep.