There are several factors that play into your ability to get a good night’s sleep, but you may not realize how important the temperature of your bedroom is for your sleep quality. Maintaining the appropriate temperature can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, which will improve your sleep quality and therefore the quality of your waking hours as well.
It probably goes without saying that sleep is a vital part of life. It is the period during which our bodies repair themselves and reset, so to speak, for the following day. Getting poor sleep can seriously impact cognitive functioning and, if extreme enough, could be seriously dangerous. During sleep our brains are cleansed of waste and cellular pathways are constructed and strengthened. This is important for learning and memory and also helps improve concentration and reaction time.
While our brains are working hard during our slumbering hours, the rest of our bodies are able to rest and recharge. Our lungs slow to a regulated breathing pattern, growth hormones are released to repair our muscles, our heart rate and blood pressure reduces and, during the dreaming stage of sleep, called REM, our body shuts down movement to prevent us from kicking that game winning goal of our dreams right into our partner’s backside.
The entire process is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythm. This delicately balanced system works on a 24-hour cycle and is what tells your body when to sleep and when to wake up. Throughout the day, your body temperature fluctuates and certain hormones are released to prepare your body for sleep.
Adenosine, which works to slow down neuron activity and causes us to feel drowsy, is built up throughout the course of the day and broken down while we sleep. That morning cup of coffee actually blocks adenosine receptors in your brain, as caffeine and adenosine have similar chemical structures, which is why you might feel less sleepy after a latte (or three).
Melatonin is another hormone that helps trigger sleep. It is produced by the body as a way of keeping track of information about the time of day, which is gathered through exposure to light and higher temperatures. More melatonin is produced when your body receives signals that it is getting darker or colder. Then, when enough melatonin is present in the body, it will cue tiredness.
If you wake up feeling exhausted, you may not have gotten enough hours in the sack. Or, your hours may have just not been as restful as they should have been. Quality and quantity are both important measurements of your sleep, but quality can be a bit more subjective.
You likely know that sleep experts recommend that adults sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night, but how well you slept during those hours can really make a difference too. It should take you no longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Once you are asleep, your sleep should not be disturbed more than once per night. It is incredibly common for folks with certain sleep disorders, like Sleep Apnea, to have their sleep interrupted dozens of times per night without their knowledge. If you do wake up at night, in order to maintain high-quality sleep, it should not take you longer than twenty minutes to fall back to sleep.
Having low-quality sleep does not necessarily mean you have insomnia or another serious sleep disorder, but it is worth inquiring with a doctor if you are having a hard time sleeping. There are several different causes of insomnia, including imbalances of the hormones listed above, but it has also been found that sleep maintenance insomnia, a type of insomnia which makes it difficult to stay asleep, is not associated with circadian rhythm timing issues. Instead, this form of insomnia is linked to a “nocturnally elevated core body temperature.”
If you do not have a diagnosed sleep issue but you find that you are waking up a lot at night or feel as though your sleep quality is suffering, the solution may be as simple as adjusting your thermostat. Because your body’s sleep clock is so intimately linked to your internal temperature, being in a room that is not too hot or too cold can really help your circadian rhythm do its thing more efficiently.
Sleep experts recommend sleeping in a room that is between 60 °F and 67 °F. Think of your sleep environment like a cave, it should be cool and dark to help your body maintain sleep conditions more easily. Dropping body temperatures cause you to feel drowsy and ready for sleep while rising body temperatures cue your body to be awake and alert, therefore it is always a better idea to be in a cooler sleep environment than one that is too warm.
Throughout the course of the day your body increases and decreases its core temperature by a few degrees. This may seem uncircumstantial to you, but your circadian rhythm is highly reliant on temperature and these few degrees can tell your body a lot. When you wake up, your body’s temperature is high and creeps slightly up until the afternoon, when it starts to drop again in preparation for sleep.
By the evening, your core temperature should be cooler than it was in the morning, even if the external temperature of your surroundings has not changed at all. In order to initiate sleep, your core temperature drops further.
Your body should be relatively cold in order to achieve the best sleep, in fact, your body temperature may reduce by up to 10% while you are sleeping. This is nothing to be concerned about though, it is simply a way that your body conserves energy while you are asleep, thus making it possible for you to wake up actually feeling energized.
We get it, if you are the kind of person who can wear a sweater in the summer and still feels like there is a bit of a nip in the air, a bedroom that is set to 60 °F might sound downright arctic. Don’t worry! There are still plenty of ways that you can stay cozy while giving your body the sleep environment it needs.
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It may seem a little obvious, but bundling up with plenty of blankets can help keep you comfy while your A/C runs. If you like to be toasty in order to fall asleep, layers of blankets can help you fall asleep but they are easy to kick off in the middle of the night if you start to get too warm.
You may also have an easier time falling asleep in a cooler bedroom if you put on a pair of socks. Keeping your feet (and hands) warm actually conserves precious energy that your body uses throughout the night. Your extremities are so far away from your heart that it is a little bit harder to heat them, especially when your heart rate is slowed while you sleep. Socks actually also work to cool down the rest of your body as the warmth in your feet causes your blood vessels to dilate, therefore slowing your blood pressure and cooling your core down. So go ahead, keep your socks on!
If you have little ones, it is important to note that this may be a bit too cold for them. Doctors recommend that babies sleep in an environment that is between 65 °F and 70 °F. So, if your baby sleeps in their own room, keep it slightly warmer. If you co-sleep with your child, perhaps try to meet in the middle and set the room to 65 °F so you can both sleep soundly.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who wears shorts in the snow and questions all the funny looks you get from strangers, 60 °F in your bedroom might still make you sweat. If you are a particularly hot sleeper, or perhaps you are going through menopause and experiencing hot flashes, fear not, we’ve got some tips for you too.
First and foremost, make sure your sleeping environment is working to cool you down. Of course, this starts with adjusting your thermostat, but you should also take a peek under the sheets. You might want to consider a mattress that actively works to cool you down, we have some recommendations on our Best Mattress Lists. You should also make sure that your bed linens aren’t trapping your body heat, We recommend going for natural and breathable materials over synthetic ones as these are often much better for temperature regulation and air flow.
If you’ve gotten your bed properly dressed to stay cool, next you should take a peek at yourself. Wear light-weight and breathable pajamas that will allow your body to get lots of air while you sleep. You could even consider sleeping naked, as there are some health benefits that come with going au naturel.
Allow your body plenty of time before bed to cool down to a temperature that will more easily induce sleep. This means you shouldn’t workout right before bed or take a scalding shower before hopping between the sheets. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, you definitely should consider working out, as it has been proven to have a myriad of sleep benefits, but schedule your time at the gym in the morning or afternoon instead. Baths and showers can also be great for relaxing your body and cooling you down for bed, but they should be taken about an hour or so before bed so that the hot water has had time to evaporate off your skin, helping to cool your body down.
The majority of bodily thermoregulation comes from your head, so if your head is hot, your body will be too. Keep your cranium cool by putting your pillowcase in the freezer before bed or keeping an ice pack, wet washcloth or glass of ice water nearby when you’re in bed.
What if you don’t have A/C or a reliable way of keeping your room cool at night? Crack open a window or invest in a box fan. Having some breeze blowing through your room will certainly help prevent overheating. Bonus! The sound that fans make while they are running is a form of pink noise, which can help you sleep more peacefully.
Ultimately, it is all about finding a good balance between hot and cold and knowing your body. If you are looking for easy ways to improve your sleep quality, lowering your bedroom’s temperature between 60 °F to 67 °F could definitely help. How does that old adage go, after all? “If you can’t stand the heat… cool down your bedroom.”