Do you toss and turn and sweat your way through summer nights? Do you dream of setting up a bed in your garden, basement or roof? Rest assured you are not sweating it out alone. For the legions of Americans who cannot afford an AC or choose not to have one on principle, keeping cool at night when summer hits poses a serious problem. The thermostat can make or break slumber—and for many when the mercury rises, a good night’s sleep goes out the window.
The National Sleep Foundation says the suggested bedroom temperature “should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.” That’s because during the course of a normal day, your body temperature rises and falls slightly. At night your body temperature naturally decreases to initiate sleep. Cooler temperatures facilitate this process, by sending the signal that it’s sleep time, while hotter temps can induce restlessness. Of course everyone has a different ideal temperature, but it’s typically somewhere around 65 degrees.
If you don’t have AC, no reason to despair—there’s many ways to experiment with keeping your room cooler and optimizing your body’s ability to self-regulate its internal temperature. Here are five easy sleep hacks that are surprisingly effective.
Close the blinds during the day
During summer, think of your bedroom as a cave—cool, dark and quiet. The most important thing to do is keep your blinds and windows closed during the day. It’s huge for preventing excess heat to build up. At night, when it cools off, you can open your window and let the fresh air in.
Take a hot bath or shower before bed
Although it sounds counter intuitive, a late afternoon or early evening warm bath or shower increases your body temp through passive heating. (But don’t heat yourself up right before bedtime.) Slowly you cool off and your body temp drops, which makes you feel sleepy. This drop off in body temp is a classic signal for the body to start producing melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
Don’t be a late-night eater
Eating a major meal late at night raises your body temperature, thus interfering with the release of melatonin, your body’s inherent sleep aid. It also revs up your blood sugar and insulin, sabotaging shuteye. It adds up to a hormonal double whammy that makes beddy bye more challenging. For a better night’s rest, schedule summer supper at least three hours before bedtime.
Invest in breathable fabrics
Your sheets, pajamas, and even what your mattress is made of deal with heat in different ways. Memory foam can trap heat and exacerbate the ambient warmth of your bedroom. For pajamas and sheets, smart choices are breathable cotton, bamboo or newer wicking fabrics that can absorb moisture—especially key if you are sweaty sleeper. But don’t eschew sheets altogether. Most people need some minimal tactile sensation, however thin, to help them relax.
Stick your feet from out under the covers
An intuitive sleep hack, many people do it without understanding why it works. It’s the same reason, but in reverse, for why socks are so essential in winter: Our feet help us maintain a lower temperature. The skin surfaces of our feet (hands too) contains specialized vascular structures that streamline heat loss. Coupled with the fact that our extremities are hairless, you have appendages perfectly designed for dissipating body heat. Sticking out a toe or a foot could help you cool down and let you sleep more deeply.