We have all had those nights—you crawl into your bed ready to enjoy a restful night’s sleep only to wake up in a sweat, throw all of the sheets off, and crank the AC down because the temperature feels like it’s 100 degrees in the house! You drag yourself out of bed and lower the temp a couple of degrees with the hopes of getting back to sleep quickly. But why is it that you went to sleep feeling comfortable only to wake up one or two or three times during the night feeling too hot?
What happens to our body temperature while we sleep?
Our body temperature makes shifts during each stage of sleep to help promote restorative sleep. According to experts, your thermostat should be placed anywhere from 65 to 68 degrees fahrenheit to help our bodies maintain an ideal temperature throughout the night. About two hours before going to bed, our bodies’ temperature naturally begins to lower. This continues until the early morning hours.
As our temperatures’ lower, the blood vessels in our skin expand. You have more than likely felt this heat in your hands and feet at night when you crawl into bed. This is our bodies’ way of allowing the heat to begin to escape in efforts to lower our core temperature. Our bodies’ production of melatonin coupled with the lowering of our temperatures aid in producing the sleepy feelings we get right before going to sleep.
Why temperature is important during sleep cycles
Most likely you have heard of REM cycles of sleep, but what exactly happens during those stages and how does it connect to temperature? We go through four stages of sleep each night. And experience four to five cycles throughout the course of the night. The first three cycles are considered non-rapid eye movement (NREM). The fourth cycle being rapid eye movement (REM). During the first two stages of NREM, our bodies’ core temperature steadily decreases, leading us into deeper sleep in the third stage of NREM. Once our bodies reach REM, our core temperature, heart rate, and breathing are at their lowest point. From there, the cycle starts back over. During these cycles, our body temperatures rise and fall throughout the night. By the time morning arrives, our bodies have slowly begun the rewarming process which is what allows us to wake up feeling rejuvenated and ready to begin the day.
So what happens when the thermostat is set too high? When our bodies become too hot, we typically experience a restless night sleep full of tossing and turning. Research has shown that this might be due to the fact that there is a decrease in your REM sleep. This in turn interrupts our sleep cycles leading to less restorative sleep and feelings of exhaustion.
How to keep your bedroom and house cool
According to the National Sleep Foundation, around 70% of people polled said that the temperature of their bedrooms made a significant impact on how well they could sleep. Keeping your bedroom cooler doesn’t necessarily mean always keeping your air conditioning running. Limiting heat build-up in your room as well as cooling things down are two main ways to help lower your internal temperature.
There are several easy ways to help eliminate some heat retention in your home:
- Keep your blinds down and windows closed. This will keep sunlight from coming in and adding extra heat as well as prevent hot air from making its way into your home.
- Get rid of any incandescent light bulbs. 90% of the energy used in these bulbs is heat whereas a mere 10% is actually producing light.
- Decreasing the use of appliances that require a lot of energy will help drive down the temperature of your house.
- Have a roof that reflects light and insulation in your attic. The sun blaring on your roof will cause the attic temperature to rise, causing it to take longer for hot air to rise up and circulate out of your home.
Finding ways to cool things down is just as important as reducing the heat retention of your house and bedroom. Here are some helpful tips on cooling things down:
- Control the humidity in your bedroom. Consider adding a dehumidifier to your room.
- Open windows to help generate cross ventilation. Play around with different doors and windows open in your home to create the optimal movement of air.
- Add circulating fans. Floor fans, table fans, ceiling fans and window fans can be placed at different doors and windows in your room to help encourage stronger ventilation.
Practical ways to help promote healthy sleep
Healthy sleep is imperative for us to function so creating an environment to promote good sleep is a must. Here are some practical ways to do that:
- Cool it down
- Set the thermostat to run cooler at night, turn on a fan, install a window unit or open a window.
- All about the bedding
- Quit the caffeine
- Try to eliminate late afternoon and early evening caffeine and replace it with caffeine-free beverages in the evenings that
- Sleep clothes
- Sleep in clothing that fits loosely and is lightweight. This will help the air movement around your skin while you sleep.
- Try to keep space between you and your partner to allow adequate airflow.
- Hydration is key
- Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day and try drinking ice water before bed to help you feel cooler.
- Take a bath or shower
- Taking a warm bath or shower an hour or so before bed will help your body naturally cool down.
- Keep it dark
- Use blackout or room darkening curtains, minimize night lights and remove electronic devices that may light up during the night.
- Reduce screen time
- The blue light from electronic devices can make it difficult for our bodies to fall asleep so try to reduce screen time before bed.
- Create a routine
- A routine before bed can help promote healthy sleep. Aim for the same bedtime each night and try things like reading a book or a hot bath instead of watching TV or scrolling on your phone.
Healthy sleep is vital to our functioning day in and day out. Experimenting with the right temperature in your bedroom may be just what you need to get you on the road to restorative sleep.