Sleeping Too Hot? Try These Cool Ideas
Dr. Nayantara Santhi, PhD
Dr. Nayantara Santhi is an associate professor of psychology at Northumbria University in Newcastle. Santhi’s body of work includes numerous articles on how circadian rhythms regulate an individual’s sleep-wake cycle. Santhi’s articles have also focused on related elements such as bright light exposure and melatonin production.
Warmer weather is great for many reasons, but sometimes sleeping too hot makes getting good sleep a challenge. Between humid, sticky air, and record heat spikes, you might find yourself spending more time kicking the covers off and getting creative with fans.
And it makes sense. Science consistently shows that a cooler bedroom and environment results in better, deeper sleep. Around bedtime, our internal thermostats drop a little bit, which scientists believe plays a role in drowsiness. A cooler room is believed to encourage this effect.
“A big question facing sleep research is what will rising temperatures do to our sleep since ambient temperature plays an important role in sleep,” says Dr. Nayantara Santhi. “This is because during sleep we are in the decreasing part of the circadian rhythm of core body temperature.”
“That is why, in general, a cooler temperature facilitates sleep. So it may be good to consider not just the room temperature but also the temperature regulation of our mattress.”
If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, read our other sleep hygiene guides for helpful tips on how to improve your quality of sleep and wake up feeling rested every day.
Previously, we’ve covered how to find the coolest mattress (our pick was the Amerisleep AS3 plant-based memory foam mattress if you’re curious). Now, let’s look at the bedroom.
Sleeping Too Hot? Try These Creative Ways to Feel Cooler When It’s Toasty
If you find yourself sleeping too hot and in need of a cooler space, we have a few ideas to help. Below, a few ideas for lowering the temperature for better sleep on hot nights or when your internal furnace is running on overdrive.
Bring Down Your Body Temperature
Keeping your own body temperature down seems like a no brainer. A few habits leave you warmer than normal though, so take a look at your bedtime routine and bedroom setup to make sure you’re optimized for coolness.
Take a Bath
Before you go to bed, take a tepid shower or bath. Plenty of sleep experts suggest this since it promotes relaxation and in turn, helps you drift off easier. Some suggest it may help kick start the lowering of your body temperature.
You don’t want to have one that is too cold, or it may produce the opposite effect by raising your temperature to overcompensate for the lost heat. Warming your skin slightly seems counterintuitive, but works by triggering your body’s natural cooling response.
If you are snacking in the hours before you go to sleep, opt for lighter meals that require low metabolic energy. So say no to proteins and fats, and instead, go for raw fruits or vegetables or healthy carbs. One small study found spicy foods also disrupt sleep, so steer clear of the sriracha and jalapenos.
Your body has to work hard to metabolize, and digestion may raise body temperature ever so slightly. Don’t forget the cool water during the day, too.
A few other nighttime cooling hacks to squash the feeling of sleeping too hot:
- Going to bed with wet hair or misting your body with water.
- Leave your feet or one foot out of the sheets to let your skin breathe.
- Cooling your head will also help cool your body. Use a damp or frozen cloth in a plastic bag, or even a frozen water bottle to cool your head down, which will in turn cool down your body. Wrists are also good cooling points.
- If you are sleeping solo, go spread eagle so your skin has access to air on all sides.
- Hot flashes associated with menopause tend to make sleeping cool a challenge. If the above cooling tips don’t work, you may want to talk to your doctor.
Cool Your Room
The best sleeping temperature is somewhere between 60 and 72 degrees F, with 65 degrees often suggested by sleep pros. In summer, temperatures reach above 90 at night in many places, so achieving this often requires planning.
Air conditioning costs money and eco-friendliness is a concern for some, but you need good sleep. Your mood, mental state and health all rest on getting adequate sleep. If sleeping too hot prevents you from falling or staying asleep, then use it at least at night.
To save on energy costs, try a programmable thermostat. Some automatically drop to the perfect sleep temperature at bedtime and then raise back up in the morning as you wake.
Fans also help cool you down while you sleep. Pointing the fan so the airflow hits your body seems like a natural choice, but there are other fan placements that may work better. See our guide on sleeping with the fan on.
When the outside air feels cooler at night than in your house, place your fan by an open window so that it draws the cooler air in.
You can also reverse your ceiling fan or point your standing fan out of the window to draw the hot air up, or out of your room. If you have a few fans, or a fan and an open window, join forces to create breezy cross ventilation. A pan of ice placed in front of a fan might also help boost the cooling.
Other Household Helpers
- Prevent the sun from heating up your bedroom during the day by keeping the curtains drawn or using thermal blinds.
- Plant trees near your bedroom window. One study found trees planted on west and south sides of California homes reduced summer energy costs by about $25 on average. Not mention, they also help the planet!
- On really hot days, avoid cooking in the house and instead opt to have a cold meal or outdoor barbeque. It might be a fun evening for a picnic in the park!
- Your electronic devices create heat while they are charging. Unplug or move them to another part of the house. Smartphones steal sleep anyways — better to keep them out of sight.
- Hot air rises, so you may find it cooler to sleep in a basement room on really hot nights. Or, even a hammock on the patio if that is an option!
Dress Your Bed (& Yourself) Right!
If sleeping too hot is a genuine problem for you, it’s time to take a serious look at your bed. Certain types of mattresses and their materials hold heat more than others. Certain fabrics for sheets and pajamas also offer better breathability than others.
Make sure that your mattress offers good breathability to keep your body cool. Certain materials like closed-cell foams and temperature-reactive foams can be more likely to retain body heat.
Recent sleep innovations keep bringing healthier, more breathable mattresses into the marketplace. Next time you buy, check out ones made of open-cell plant-based material, which circulates air better around your body. Plant-based foams have also been show to breathe better than even gel foams.
Within the mattress covers, materials like organic cotton and wool allow foams to breath. More innovative fibers like Celliant can take this a step further. Celliant actually draws excess body heat, using minerals to convert it to beneficial infrared waves that have been shown to boost circulation, promote healing and improve sleep.
If your mattress isn’t quite able to stay cool on warmer nights but you’re not quite ready to replace it, a cooling mattress topper can greatly improve its feel.
Best Bedding for Hot Sleepers
For your cooling sheets, look for natural fabrics such as cotton or bamboo. Natural fibers promote breathability and wick moisture away from you. Avoid flannel, satin, polyester and other synthetic fibers or save them for winter, as they restrict airflow.
Use cotton, Tencel, bamboo, or linen sheets for hot sleeping to stay cool and dry. We’ve written buyers’ guides for each one to simplify shopping:
- Best Tencel Sheets
- Best Cotton Sheets
- Best Organic Cotton Sheets
- Best Egyptian Cotton Sheets
- Best Percale Cotton Sheets
- Best Bamboo Sheets
- Best Linen Sheets
The same goes for covers. Use a lightweight duvet or comforter with cotton or other natural fiber. Many bed sets use polyester, so read the label.
Lightweight quilts or coverlets may be better if you live in an especially warm place. You can even go with a simple blanket for summer and switch it out with a heavier blanket, quilt, or comforter in winter.
As for cooling pillows, some offer cooling technologies such as a special gel, buckwheat, or rice meant to keep your head and your cool. Plant-based and advanced open-cell foams also work.
For extreme heat, we found a few cool hacks for your bedding and pillows that might also help:
- Wet your sheets a little (a mister or the washing machine spin cycles works great for this) before putting them on your bed. Pair this with a fan for cooler-feeling air.
- Put both your pillows and sheets in the freezer for twenty minutes.
- Craft your own cooling neck support by filling a (clean!) sock with rice and storing it in the freezer until bedtime comes.
What you wear to bed also influences how warm or cool you sleep. Reserve rayon, satin, flannel, and the like for colder months. Crisp, cool cotton is likely your best bet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to sleep hot or cold?
Sleeping ever so slightly cold is often the key to a good night’s rest, as too-hot room temperatures can make it difficult to drift off. Not too cold, as temperatures in the 50s and lower can be uncomfortable for sleep. For many, bedroom temperatures in the 60s and low 70s are sleep-inducing.
Why do I get so hot when sleeping?
Core temperatures drop while we sleep, and the excess heat is released into our surroundings. If our bedding or mattress materials trap that heat instead of letting it escape, then we can experience discomfort from heat buildup. This is why breathable fabrics are necessary for cooling bedding.
What temperature is too hot for sleep?
Most people find that room temperatures above the low 70s make it difficult to sleep. Some may even find the 70s too warm and need a room in the 60s degree range. If you’re struggling to keep cool in the summer, simple tricks like keeping your sheets in the freezer before bed can be the cooling push you need for better sleep.
How do I cool myself down while laying in bed?
When you’re feeling too warm in bed, you can try and see if you have more breathable bedding on hand. If you do not, then spritzing your existing bedding with a bit of water can help it feel cooler. You can also try switching out your sleepwear for something lighter or gently dabbing your hair and body with cool water.
Can a mattress topper make my bed cooler?
Yes, while mattress toppers are often used to soften or firm up a bed, there are cooling mattress toppers. They tend to rely on air channels and infused channels to limit surface heat buildup. A cooling topper can cost around a couple of hundred dollars, but that is significantly cheaper than a new mattress.
Share in the comments: What are your go-to ways to snooze cool and avoid sleeping too hot?