How to Sleep Cool in a Heat Wave

Resources Sleep Tips

Hot, sultry, and sticky nights can get in the way of a good night of sleep. If you don’t have (or don’t wish to use) air conditioning, you may wonder how to cool off. Never fear! We have some time-tested as well as creative new ways to help you.

Before we get to those tips, here’s a brief explanation of how temperature and the body’s cooling system work while we sleep.

How Temperature Affects Sleep

As it gets darker outside in the evening, the body is cued to make melatonin. Melatonin is our friend when trying to sleep – it causes our core body temperature to lower and helps us get slightly drowsy. As we go to sleep, the core temperature continues to go down until it is about 2 degrees lower than it usually is during the day, and it stays at this level through most of the night. Your temperature will gradually elevate when morning comes so you can awaken more easily.

However, external temperatures can disrupt this natural process if it is too hot, and warm temperatures prevent that natural dip in your core temperature. Therefore, if your room is too warm when you sleep, this can disrupt your sleep cycles, making you not quite as refreshed the following day. Sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit is considered by many to be ideal for sleeping, but any range between 60-67 will work.

If your room is too warm when you sleep, this can disrupt your sleep cycles, making you not quite as refreshed the following day.

How to Sleep Cool on Hot Nights

Preparation before bed

Prepare the environment
  • Close curtains or shades during the day to keep sunlight out. Close windows entirely, or turn a fan facing outward to blow hot air away.
  • Turn off lights and devices, as both can radiate heat. Use natural light as much as possible (but reduce direct sun) with only minimal lights and devices after dark.
  • Think about your mattress, sheets, and pillows. Natural fibers like cotton and wool allow air to circulate as they are much more breathable, and light colors are cooler.
  • Breathable and loose-fitting cotton nightwear in a lighter color is helpful.
  • Once the sun has gone down, create a cross-breeze by opening two or more windows or doors and using fans to help the air circulate. Change your ceiling fan setting to draw hot air up and out.
Prepare yourself and your schedule.
  • Exercise during the day helps with your sleep, but stop heavy exercise an hour or two before bedtime so your body temperature can dip.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day; a glass of ice water on your nightstand can be helpful also.
  • Some people swear by hot showers or baths an hour or two before bed. Others feel a cool shower is best. Experiment to see what works best for you.
  • Eat a light dinner and finish eating 2 hours before bedtime, if possible, to support the drop in core temperature.

Ways to sleep cool through the night

  • Slightly moisten a towel or a t-shirt and put it in the freezer. At bedtime, apply to your head, neck, or wrists.
  • Keep a spray bottle with ice water near your bed.
  • Some people swear by hanging a wet sheet by an open window.
  • Use fans to circulate air. Putting a shallow pan filled with ice cubes in front of the fan will provide coolness.
  • Turn your pillow over.
  • If you have long hair, tie it up.
  • Fill a hot water bottle with water, then freeze. Use it to cool sheets.
  • Sleep as close to the ground as possible since the heat rises.

If all else fails, camping out in the yard or on the deck, where possible, could be an option!

Should you need assistance with more breathable bedding or a mattress that promotes sleeping cooler, we are available via chat, by phone, and, of course, in our showrooms. Our luxurious beds are made of natural fibers that breathe well, and our sleep specialists can help you find lightweight bedding to help you sleep cooler.

originally published on 8/12/21
edited 7/14/2023