The Effects of Temperature on Sleep Quality

Sleep is one of the most important functions your body performs, and a great many things impact sleep quality. These include what and when you eat, toxins in the air, and even the color of your bedroom walls. Chief among things that affect sleep is temperature. This includes the temperature of the sleep environment, as well the temperature of your body and bedding.

Sleep: Good Vs. Bad

Unfortunately, many people know the drastic effects poor sleep can have on the body and mind, in both the short and long term. Just a few nights of tossing and turning can result in memory issues, an inability to concentrate, irritability, stress and the release of stress hormones. Lack of sleep for longer periods can lead to very serious conditions including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, decreased brain function, a compromised immune system, and depression and anxiety.

Good sleep:

  • Supports brain function.  
  • Removes toxins from the body.
  • Supports a strong metabolism and immune function.
  • Reduces the risk of disorders like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.
  • Reduces anxiety and irritability.
  • Regulates hormones.

How Temperature Fits In

Clearly, sleep is the foundation of our health and well-being, and if the sleep environment gets too hot or cold, it can disrupt sleep patterns. So, it’s critical that we know how to assess as well as maintain the best temperature for the room environment, our body and our bedding.

The Best Air Temperature for Sleep

The ideal temperature for the sleep environment is around 68 to 72 degrees; but, there are many variables to consider, such as the phase of life.

Younger children generally need to wear one more layer than adults do, but be careful children don’t overheat. You can assess the room yourself – if you’re comfortable, your child is probably comfortable too. Another simple barometer is to touch their hand or the tip of their nose. If their hands are sweaty or clammy, the temperature is probably a little too hot; if their fingers or nose are chilly, then the room may be too cold.

High school and middle school children generally need the sleep environment a little cooler because of hormonal changes. Anyone with teenagers can attest: It can be 50 degrees out, and they’ll want to wear shorts. However, when sleeping, they may truly need less clothing or prefer a cooler room.

Men tend to like the room environment temperature a little cooler than women do. Some research indicates that testosterone might desensitize cold receptors, making men feel warmer. Additionally, men tend to have a higher metabolism and more lean muscle mass than women, making them burn calories faster, which can heat up the body.

Pregnant women and women going through menopause also tend to like a cooler sleep environment.

Measure and Adjust the Room Temperature

Digital thermometers and phone apps can help you measure and adjust room temperature. We use the Nest home thermostat. It lets you adjust the heating and cooling in your home throughout the day, even if you’re not home. Nest uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, as well as to your other mobile devices. Another benefit of this type of connected thermostat is that, as you adjust the temperature to meet your needs and changes in the environment, it can save you money.

One more thing to consider is the age of your home. If your home is on the newer side, you may be able to leave the temperature a little lower. But, with homes that aren’t well insulated, as is often true of older homes, you might need to keep the temperature a little higher.

Measure and Control Humidity, Too

The humidity of the bedroom also plays a role in sleep quality. The ideal room humidity is between 50% and 60%. If it’s too humid, the room may be too moist, which can lead mildew to grow. Mildew in the air can lead to respiratory issues, like a cough. Telltale signs are black spots on the windowsill, for example.  Conversely, if there isn’t enough moisture in the air, you can get a dry cough or a bloody nose. These things will surely interrupt your sleep.

You can measure the humidity of your bedroom with a humidistat, a small electronic device that works like a thermostat. Instead of measuring the temperature, it measures humidity levels. Some humidistats are strictly for monitoring humidity, but many are connected to a dehumidifier/humidifier and also regulate humidity levels.

Tips to Keep Your Sleep Environment Cool in Hot Weather

Now you know the importance of maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity levels. Of course, in warm and hot weather, the ideal choice is central air or a room air conditioner. If those aren’t options, there are several other things you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep.

These include:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Use ceiling, room or floor fans
  • Close curtains and/or blinds
  • Open windows
  • Choose breathable bedding

Stay Hydrated

Hydration throughout the day is key. You’re more likely to wake up at night with any little climate change if your body isn’t hydrated. Additionally, you may awake from thirst. Moreover, when you’re not hydrated, you’re not moving toxins out of the body.

You need to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a 140-pound woman will need to drink 70 ounces of water each day – that’s nine full glasses.

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When using room or floor fans, it’s best to have them six feet away from the bed. Keep the fan(s) running all day – not just when you’re ready to go to sleep – to circulate the air so it doesn’t stagnate.

Curtains and Windows

Thermal, lined curtains or drapes are good for all seasons. They keep cold out in winter and heat out in summer, so keep them closed during the day. When the temperature drops, open the curtains and windows to allow fresh air in.

Choose Breathable Bedding

Use a breathable mattress, sheets, and blanket or comforter (if you use one) that wicks away moisture, and pillows that are made of natural materials and are airy, buoyant, and breathable. The Talalay method of processing 100% latex pillows results in pillows that promote temperature regulation, as well as maintain consistent density and recovery. The mattress, sheets and pillows should be cool to the touch. This can keep you cool and reduce the possibility of sweating. Sweating in bed is bad for two reasons: it leads to dehydration, and it’s uncomfortable and will wake you up. You can also reduce sweating by limiting clothing – the less, the better. If you wear pajamas, cotton is best.

There are mattress pads available that help regulate body temperature. They are connected to a machine that makes the pad cooler or warmer. The mattress pad can be adjusted to a different temperature than the room.

Another simple tip to promote better sleep is to wash pillowcases frequently – at least a couple of times a week. Pillowcases absorb dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and sweat. As dead skin cells gather among the fibers of a pillowcase, dust mites can become more of a problem. These microscopic insects feed on dead skin cells and their waste and, when breathed in, may cause watery eyes, a runny or itchy nose, an itchy throat, coughing, or worsening of asthma – any of which can disrupt sleep. 

Tips to Keep Your Sleep Environment Warm in Cool Weather

In cold weather, there are several steps you can take to ensure a comfortable room environment.

These include:

  • Stay hydrated (that’s important, no matter what the temperature)
  • Use thermal curtains and blinds
  • Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and close them at night
  • Use area rugs on hard floors
  • Use warmer bedding
  • Check the room for drafts and block them
  • Move your bed away from a window
  • Wear warmer pajamas, but make sure they are breathable and loose
  • Change the direction of your ceiling fan

In cold weather, reverse your ceiling fan's rotation. This will pull cool air up to mix with the hot air. Heat rises and cool air falls. The mixed air will make the room warmer. This is also helpful in keeping heating bills down if you can’t regulate the heat in your home by zone.

Temperature Does Affect Sleep – Either Positively or Negatively

By measuring your sleep environment’s air temperature and humidity level, you can determine if they are at optimal levels. Then, as needed, you can make a few simple changes as the seasons change, in your life as well as in the environment. You can ensure your sleep environment supports good, restorative sleep.

 

Authored by Ingrid Prueher, Holistic Sleep Coach