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There is a lot to love about summer, but sleep is probably not one of them. Thanks to the sweltering heat, summer makes for uncomfortable, restless and sweaty nights. Many people end up sleep deprived and fatigued.
We struggle to sleep when it’s too hot. On top of the soaring temperatures, the rising humidity can make sleeping even more difficult.
In this post, we explain how summer heat messes up with our sleep plus some tips on how to cope with the warm summer nights.
Why We Struggle to Sleep When It’s Hot
The circadian rhythm controls the sleep-wake cycle. It’s also heavily involved in thermoregulation through melatonin, the sleep hormone, and various other mechanisms. Changes in body temperature follow along with the sleep-wake cycle. As it gets dark, the lower light levels trigger higher melatonin production which in turn causes body temperature to start falling. Core temperature keeps falling even after we’ve slept.
As we are about to wake up, the circadian rhythm starts raising core body temperature to promote wakefulness and help you feel alert. Then body temperature keeps rising and peaks in the afternoon.
So temperature is crucial for sleep. Falling core body temperature allows you to get drowsy and fall asleep. The ideal room temperature for sleep varies slightly from person to person, but the universal range is between 60F and 70F.
If it is too hot in the evening, several things happen to affect your sleep quality.
- The body’s thermoregulation effects kicks into action in an attempt to bring core temperature down. So you may find yourself sweating as the body tries to cool down, which only makes your sleep more uncomfortable.
- The high temperatures trigger a stress response to the body, so you have more stress hormones getting released.
- Our heart rate goes up as it works harder to reroute blood to vessels closer to the skin in an effort to release excess heat.
These three things have one effect: they increase wakefulness when you should be trying to sleep. You cannot relax when you are hot, anxiety and stress levels rise, your heart beats faster and melatonin levels drop.
In other words, it is darn hard to fall asleep on hot summer nights.
Heat Prevents Deep Sleep
Eventually, the body gets tired enough that you just sleep through the heat. Unfortunately, the high temperatures follow you into dreamland to continue messing with your sleep.
Studies have found that high temperatures reduce both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and slow wave sleep (deep sleep stage). So even when you sleep, you don't sleep well. You might even wake up in the middle of the night all hot and sweaty.
Summer Sleep Problems
The summer heat comes with plenty of sleep issues including:
- Insomnia, especially sleep onset insomnia. If you already suffer from insomnia, the heat will probably make it worse.
- Increased sleep latency. Sleep latency refers to how long it takes to fall asleep. Normal sleep latency is 10-20 minutes, but if it’s too hot, you could find yourself taking a lot longer than that to fall asleep.
- Sleep disruptions in the middle of the night as you struggle with heat and sweat.
- All these lead to sleep deprivation, which in turn affects your mental and physical health, your focus, your energy levels, your sex life and your performance at school or work.
So summer heat can have some serious downstream effects on your health and life. The lack of sleep even increases your risk of some diseases like diabetes type 2 and heart failure.
By the way, summer nights are worse on people who are naturally hot sleepers, those with night sweats and women suffering from hot flashes.
5 Tips to Sleep Cool During Hot Summer Nights
Fortunately, you have plenty of ways to combat the summer heat. Here are our top five sleep cool techniques for the summer. They are roughly in order of the easiest/cheapest techniques to the most expensive ones.
1. Use Lighter Bedding & Nightwear
The easiest solution is to make your bedding and nightwear lighter. Switch to a lighter comforter or even do away with the blanket completely if it is really hot and just cover yourself with a sheet.
What you wear to bed also matters. To help your body stay cooler and sweat less, opt for lighter and more breathable nightwear. If necessary, you can even sleep nude.
2. Move Air Around
Before you try more expensive cooling techniques such as your central AC or a bed cooling system, try improving the airflow in your bedroom. You’d be surprised at how cooling a simple fan can be. The moving air prevents heat from accumulating around the bed and it also helps you cool down as it dries sweat on your skin.
Look for a fan that’s designed to be as silent as possible to ensure it doesn't disrupt your sleep with noise.
You can also try opening a window to get air moving in and out of the room. Open a door or second window opposite to improve cross ventilation. If bugs are an issue, there are mesh screens you can buy to keep them out.
3. Get Cool Bedding
Switching to bedding that’s designed to provide maximum cooling performance can help you tolerate the summer heat and sleep better.
You can start with cooling sheets and see if they help. Look for sheets made with natural fabrics like linen, cotton or silk. Our antimicrobial Jax sheets keep your bed clean and fresh, while helping you sleep cool.
A cooling comforter made for summer like our Jax comforter can also help. Even changing your pillow and pillowcase can prevent overheating and sweating (latex and down pillows are the coolest. Shredded memory foam pillows are also fairly breathable).
If you currently have a memory foam mattress, consider replacing it with a cooler mattress. Memory foam traps heat and can make summer nights a lot worse. Better options include a latex mattress mattress and a hybrid pocket coil mattress.
If you don't have the budget for a new mattress, you can get a cooling mattress pad or topper made from latex, wool or bamboo.
4. Cool the Bed
If you are dealing with some serious heat or if you are extra-sensitive to heat, actively cooling the bed is one of the best and most efficient solutions.
One option is BedJet, an air-cooling system that can cool or warm your bed. You set your preferred temperature and it blasts chilled air under the sheets. It’s especially great for night sweaters.
The other option is Chilipad by SleepMe, a water-cooling system. Again, you select your preferred temperature and it circulates chilled (or heated) water through a mattress pad. Water can get a lot colder than air, making Chilipad an excellent option for extra-hot summers and heat waves.
5. Cool the Room
The last, and probably most expensive, solution to sleeping cool in the summer is cooling the entire bedroom.
You can lower the thermostat and have the central AC cool the room. A more efficient option would be installing a single split or window air conditioner. You can also get a portable air conditioner but it’s not as efficient as a single split or window unit.