A comfortable sleep environment makes a big difference to sleep. A clean room, a sense of order, fresh bedding and a dark sleeping space can all create a sense of calm and of comfort, making your bedroom an inviting place to be, a place that’s conducive to high quality rest.
It may not be the first thing you think of, but temperature is another important component of a sleep-friendly bedroom environment. The temperature of your bedroom has a significant effect on how well you fall and stay asleep. Often, sleep specialists recommend a bedroom that feels reminiscent of a cave: dark, quiet, and cool.
The most comfortable temperatures for sleep
Individuals have different tolerance to temperatures, and the climate you live in may play a role in what feels comfortable to you. Generally, a range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is a healthy range for sleep. Keeping your bedroom in this range, and avoiding spikes or drops in temperature throughout the course of the night, will help you sleep consistently and well. Within this range, most people will find a temperature at which they can remain what sleep experts call “thermally neutral” – a state in which the body needs to neither cool itself down (by sweating) or warm itself up (by shivering).
Not too hot, not too cold
A too-warm room can feel stuffy and constricting. Tossing, turning, and sweating in a hot room make it difficult to fall asleep. Temperatures that are too low also pose problems for sleeping well throughout the night. Cold causes stress to the body. In a cold room, it can be difficult to relax sufficiently to fall asleep. Research indicates that both too-high and too-low temperatures during sleep can lead to less time spent in the stages of deep sleep and REM sleep, the most physically and mentally restorative phases of the nightly sleep cycles.
As part of its preparation for sleep, body naturally cools and releases heat from extremities. Hands and feet are especially vulnerable to the effects of cold throughout the night. It’s a common problem for people to wake in the middle of the night because of cold feet.
The body’s temperature response to sleep
Like sleep itself, body temperature is regulated over the course of a 24-hour day by internal rhythms. Body temperatures begin to drop in the evening, and continue to dip throughout the night before reaching their lowest point at about 4 a.m. This drop in body temperature helps bring sleep about – and it also makes you increasingly sensitive to external temperatures throughout the night. The body loses some of its ability to regulate temperature during REM sleep, which occurs predominantly in the later part of the night. It’s important to regulate bedroom temperatures for the duration of the night, including the times deep into the night when the body is most vulnerable to the effects of heat and cold.
Ways to keep temps comfortable
There are a number of simple ways to help maintain moderate, sleep-promoting temperatures in your bedroom, and ensure yourself a comfortable night’s rest. To manage warm temperatures at night, wear loose, breathable clothing – or, should you prefer, no clothing at all. A cool shower before bed can help. Keep a glass of cool water at your bedside. Make sure all devices that generate heat are turned off, including televisions, computers. (Having these devices turned off is also important for sleep regardless of temperature.) Invest in an air conditioner, or use a fan while you sleep. In very hot weather, consider moving to a lower level of your home where it will be cooler.
Under cold conditions, make sure your bedding and sleepwear provide you with proper warmth. Layering blankets on the bed can provide greater insulation than one single large cover, and also allows you to adjust your coverage. Wearing socks at night helps keep your feet from becoming too chilled and disturbing your rest. A nightcap may sound old-fashioned, but a cap made from breathable fabric worn at night is an effective way to retain body heat.
Depending on the climate where you live, you may need to heat or cool your bedroom well before bedtime in order for it to be conducive to sleep when the time comes to turn in. Closing curtains during the day can block heat-generating sunlight, and opening windows after dusk allows fresh, cool air to circulate. Running an electric heater in the bedroom, or using an electric blanket or heated mattress pad can supply additional warmth to your bed. Just remember to turn electric blankets or pads off before you get into bed.
An ideal bedroom temperature is one that feels comfortable to you. It allows you to relax before bedtime and fall peacefully to sleep, and to rest soundly without interruption until morning. Prepare your sleep environment ahead of time for the temperature that’s right for you, and come bedtime, you won’t be thinking about temperature at all.