Every person who has endured a heat wave or a period of extremely cold weather will understand that temperature extremes can affect how we sleep. In fact, even a small shift in temperature can mean the difference between a good night of rest and a night of tossing and turning. In this article, we will take a closer look at the relationship between temperature and sleep to help you make informed choices.

What is the Optimal Sleeping Temperature?

This is a hard question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every person will have their personal preferences and the comfortable sleeping temperature varies between men and women.

Inevitably, some type of compromise may be necessary when two people are sleeping in the same room. But, most experts agree that the best ambient temperature for sleeping is in the 60ºF up to 67ºF range. At these temperatures, the core body temperature is lowered to prepare our bodies for sleep. Historically this was a natural process, the sun would set, our ancestors would feel a little colder and this would make them sleepy and ready for rest. So, if we replicate similar conditions, it will be far easier to fall asleep and we are more likely to sleep deeply.

4 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Setting the thermostat to a temperature in the 60ºF to 67ºF range is pretty simple. But, you may need to adjust that setting up or down until you find the sweet spot. Let’s take a look at four tips that will help you to get a good night’s sleep:

1.   Using Fans

Using a ceiling fan or standing fan can create a wind chill factor that lowers the temperature by up to 4ºF. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE,) this is the most efficient way to make a room cooler without adjusting the thermostat. It’s cheaper to run a fan than the AC system and setting the thermostat 4ºF higher when the fan is on will lower your energy bills.

2.   Take a Shower Before Bed

If you take a short shower or bath using warm water before you go to bed, it can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your sleep. The warm water will slightly raise your skin temperature which will cause your core to lose heat and cool down for sleeping. Scientists even have a name for this phenomenon, they call it “the bath effect” and it causes people to fall asleep faster and experience deeper sleep. The best way to use this tip to your advantage is to take a shower or bathe 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed.

3.   The Cold Feet Conundrum

Many people have cold feet and this is especially true for women. Our feet contain a large number of blood vessels which means that the skin and core temperature in these locations affect the entire body. Although it’s tempting to crank the thermostat to make our feet warm, this is an unnecessary approach and it will raise the energy bills.

The best way to deal with this problem is to wear breathable socks in bed. The cotton or wool socks will warm the skin on the feet which in turn will send a signal to the brain that it’s time to fall asleep. The heat and blood flow that is brought to the skin’s surface will be dissipated naturally in the air and this will cool the core. People who wear socks in bed tend to fall asleep faster and they spend longer in the restful deep sleep state. One study found that foot warming was extremely effective at helping older adults get good quality sleep.

4.   Use Bed Layers

When we fall asleep, most of us dream or go into a state where reality seems to be static and unchanging until we awaken. But, even though we are essentially unconscious our bodies continue to work and this can affect how cold or hot we feel. The blood continues to flow, nerve cell activity shifts constantly, the hormone levels change, and more. So, there may be times during the night when you need to adjust your temperature quickly to avoid waking fully. The best way to deal with this problem is to dress your bed in layers with an extra sheet, blanket, or comforter. Ideally, these should be natural breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen sheets, cotton or feather comforters, and wool blankets. When the season changes, you can review your choices and add or remove layers as required.

Consider Upgrading to a Programmable Thermostat:

If you want to ensure the optimum temperature for sleeping in your home, you may want to consider installing a programmable thermostat. This will eliminate the need to remember to adjust the thermostat as you’re getting ready for bed.

Programmable thermostats allow you to set your preferred temperature for different times of the day or night. If you have a zoning system, you can even have different temperatures for different areas of your home. This means that you can keep your sleeping areas at a cooler temperature compared to your living spaces.

You could also consider a smart thermostat which can adjust the temperatures inside your home according to your preferences and habits for the greatest energy efficiency. The benefit of a smart thermostat is that there is typically an accompanying app, which allows you to make temperature adjustments using your smartphone or tablet. This means that if you’re trying to get to sleep and the temperature doesn’t feel quite right to help you drift off, you don’t even need to get out of bed! You can simply make the adjustments on your phone and settle in for a comfortable and restful night.

If your HVAC system cannot deliver the optimal conditions for a good night’s sleep, you should speak to your local heating and cooling specialist. An experienced technician can not only evaluate your system to ensure that it is operating at peak efficiency and performance, but also guide you through ways to improve your home comfort.