How to Sleep When It’s Hot Outside

While many people celebrate the arrival of summer, others find that rising temperatures bring a troublesome problem: disrupted sleep.

Sleep is critical to overall health and well-being. Poor sleep can cause or worsen physical and mental health problems.

Sleep quality is directly affected by the bedroom setting, including light, sound, and temperature. Too much light can cause shallower, fragmented sleep, and loud noise may cause bothersome sleep interruptions.

Similarly, being too hot can cause discomfort and unwanted alertness at night while also interfering with deep sleep. Body temperature drops before bedtime and continues to decline after falling asleep. Too much heat or cold can affect this process and negatively affect sleep quality.

Summer weather raises the risk of having a stuffy bedroom environment that makes it harder to get quality sleep. Though everyone’s personal preferences for the ideal temperature may differ, practical steps can make it easier to sleep well even when it’s hot outside.

Keep the Heat Out During the Day

To keep your bedroom cool, start by aiming to keep heat from building up inside during the day. Though you may be able to simply lower the thermostat, some people do not have air conditioning or simply want to avoid running their A/C all day. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to cool down your sleeping area, starting with understanding what might affect heat levels.

Warm weather can raise the temperature in your home in multiple ways. Direct sunlight can cause significant temperature increases. Heat can also collect when hot air moves inside or when heat is transferred from walls and other solid materials.

Several different approaches may help block these processes:

  • Close the curtains: Draw the shades or close your curtains to block direct sunlight and reduce the amount of heat that transfers into your living space.
  • Turn off bright lights: Depending on the type of bulb they use, your lamps and in-house lights may radiate heat.
  • Avoid using certain appliances: On hot days, consider avoiding the use of appliances that generate a lot of heat, such as an oven.
  • Close the windows: Open windows allow in heat, increasing the temperature of your home.
  • Close doors inside: Because heat can travel through the air, keeping interior doors closed reduces how much warm air can pass between rooms.
  • Seal up gaps: Gaps in walls, doors, and windows create air leaks that allow heat to come into your home. You can use caulk or weatherstripping to address leaks in different areas. You can also hire an energy assessor to test your living space for leaks.
  • Update your windows: Newer windows are often coated in a material that reduces the amount of heat that can pass through.
  • Check your insulation: Insulation provides a buffer that limits how quickly heat is transferred into your home, so make sure that you have enough insulation and that it is properly installed.

Circulate the Air in Your Room

Keeping air moving in your bedroom can help you take advantage of sweating, which is one of the body’s ways of cooling itself down.

Sweat is moisture that leaves the body through the skin, carrying heat along with it. As air passes over the skin, the sweat evaporates faster, further cooling the body.

To facilitate this cooling process, you can use these tips to keep air circulating in your room.

  • Use a fan: All types of fans deliver a helpful cooling breeze, but ceiling fans create a consistent draft and are the most effective air circulators available.
  • Natural ventilation: If it is warmer inside than outside, the natural ventilation can bring cooling air through your home. This usually involves opening windows on either side of your home or in the lower and upper levels, allowing cooler air from outside to flow in through one window and warmer air to be pushed out the other.

Avoid Excessive Movement Before Bed

Body temperature rises during and after activities involving excessive movement, such as exercise and sex. A higher body temperature can lead to more sleep disruptions through the night.

As a result, engaging in vigorous physical activity within one hour of bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. Exercising earlier in the evening, though, usually does not have a negative effect on sleep.

Sleep With Cool Materials

Another way to improve your sleep setting is by making sure your mattress, bedding, and clothing are made from cool and comfortable materials.

Choose the Right Mattress

Mattresses are often overlooked when it comes to sleeping temperature, but they can play a role in whether you sleep hot.

The materials and design of a mattress affect airflow both within the mattress and around your body. As a result, different types of mattresses tend to influence sleeping temperature in different ways.

  • Foam: Foam mattresses typically hold in more heat than other mattress types. Softer foams, including memory foam, can absorb and trap excess heat from the body.
  • Innerspring: The core of these mattresses is a network of metal coils. Air can flow easily through the coils, reducing the likelihood of heat buildup. Accordingly, innersprings are often a top choice for hot sleepers.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid mattress has a core of coils with a substantial amount of other materials on top that are designed to bolster its support and performance. Depending on the materials in the top layers, a hybrid may retain more heat than an innerspring.
  • Latex: These mattresses are made primarily with latex, a material that generally resists heat retention more than mattress foams.
  • Gel-infused foam: These mattresses incorporate foam that has been injected with a gel material intended to improve temperature neutrality. While some people find gel-infused foams to be beneficial, they often still retain more heat than latex or innerspring options.

The feel of a mattress can also impact its temperature regulation. The more that you sink into a bed, the more difficult it is for air to pass over your skin and help cool you down. As a result, plush mattresses are typically more prone to sleeping hot than firmer beds.

Try Different Bedding

The kinds of sheets and blankets that you use at night can affect also your body temperature.

Some types of fabrics are considered to be better suited to hot sleepers. Materials that can absorb moisture and wick it away from the body may enable for better temperature regulation through perspiration. Cotton and wool are examples of materials that are known for wicking moisture.

The kind of sheets that feel lightest, coolest, and most comfortable may vary based on subjective preferences as well as the texture, weave, and thickness of the materials.

In addition, you can put away heavy quilts during the summer. You may not need a blanket at all, but if you do want to have one nearby, choose one that is thinner and more breathable. During hot weather, you may benefit from having layers that you can easily add or take away depending on your temperature over the course of the night.

Wear Comfortable Pajamas

The clothes that you sleep in can impact your body temperature and comfort during sleep. As with bedding, you may benefit from lighter and more breathable materials that wick moisture. These can promote comfort and cooling through the body’s natural process of regulating temperature via perspiration.

Heavier materials, like flannel, are usually not the best choice for hot weather. Instead, opt for lightweight and looser clothing () that doesn’t block airflow around your skin.

Heat isn’t the only factor that affects your sleep, though, so also make sure to pick out pajamas that feel comfortable so that you can more easily settle into bed at night.

Another option is to sleep in the nude. While this approach isn’t for everyone, it can prevent clothing from cutting off airflow around the body.

Place Your Mattress on the Floor

Warm air rises, so sleeping on the floor offers a way to avoid some heat. However, there are a few factors to consider if you are planning to place your mattress on the floor.

  • Cleanliness: Keeping a mattress on the floor puts you in closer proximity to everything else on the floor, including dirt, dust, and bugs. Putting your mattress directly on the floor may also void the warranty, so always check the fine print in the manufacturer’s warranty before getting rid of your bed frame.
  • Physical strain: It is easier to get in and out of a bed that is on a bed frame than a mattress that is directly on the floor. This setup may be more problematic for people with injuries or health conditions that limit their mobility.
  • Low bed frames: If you want to sleep lower to the ground without actually being on the floor, you can try a platform bed or a low-profile bed frame without a box spring.

Take a Hot Bath or Shower

Although it may seem counterintuitive, a warm bath or shower could improve your sleep.

When you finish a warm shower or bath that lasts at least 10 minutes, the body responds by dissipating heat from the core through the hands and feet. This ends up reducing body temperature in a way that can promote sleep.

Because it can take some time for this process to unfold, it may be best to take a warm bath or shower around one to two hours before bed. Approach warm baths and showers with caution when it is hot outside so that you don’t overheat while bathing.

You may find yourself wanting to cool off with a cold shower. This can help prevent heat exhaustion, but very cold water may make you feel more alert and awake. If you feel that a cold shower may help, give yourself time to wind down before going to bed.

Don’t Share the Bed

Sharing your bed with a partner or pet may lead to increased heat buildup during the night. Excess heat leaves the body through the pores in the skin, and this heat can radiate to your bed partner.

On especially hot nights, it may be beneficial to sleep separately from your partner or pet. You can sleep in a different room, but if that’s not possible, try to spread out as much as possible in the bed to reduce heat transfer.

Stay Well Hydrated

Hydration is a key element of maintaining a safe and healthy body temperature. It also supports virtually all other aspects of health.

Aim to drink 8 to 12 cups of water per day. Heat increases your need for hydration as the body loses water by sweating, so shoot for the higher end of this range when it’s warm outside. There are also some other ways to keep hydrated on hot nights.

  • Keep ice water on your nightstand: Keeping water nearby offers a quick way to rehydrate and cool down.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol contributes to dehydration by increasing the frequency of urination. On hotter days, aim to cut back on alcohol, and if you do drink, make sure to consume plenty of water at the same time.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day: Rather than only getting your water intake at night, drink water throughout the day, even when you don’t feel thirsty.

Freeze Your Sheets

Cool sheets can make for a more comfortable night’s sleep. To prepare for sleeping in hot temperatures, try freezing your sheets. Frozen sheets typically do not remain cold for an entire night, but they may stay cold long enough to help you get to sleep. If your freezer is large enough, you can freeze your sheets in just a few simple steps.

  1. Put your top sheet in a resealable plastic bag and close the bag to help keep moisture off of your sheets.
  2. Place the bag in the freezer. The longer you keep it there, the colder it will get. Some people prefer to put sheets in the freezer for only a short stint, while others leave them in the freezer for a few hours.
  3. Take your sheets out of the freezer right before going to sleep and put them on your bed.

You can also try this method with your pajamas or pillow case on a particularly hot night.

Sleep With an Ice Pack or Damp Compress

Cooling certain areas of the body may help to keep your overall temperature down. For example, try wrapping an ice pack in a towel or using a cold, wet compress on pulse points of your body, like your wrists, inner elbows, and ankles. You can also try freezing a gel mask and sleeping with it on your face.

Why Do You Get Hot at Night?

Along with reasons like warmer climates, thermostat settings, and bedding or clothing that traps heat, there are other key factors that can make you feel hot at night.

  • Individual temperature perception: Some people tend to run hot or cold, and this variability in perceived temperature can determine comfort in different settings. Your perception of hot and cold can vary based on multiple biological factors and on how accustomed you are to a certain climate.
  • Caffeine and alcohol consumption: Caffeine intake has been found to increase core body temperature and may reduce the ability to dissipate heat through the hands and feet. Alcohol is dehydrating, which can contribute to problems with maintaining a proper body temperature.
  • Hormone imbalance: Changes in hormone production, including during menopause, can lead to hot flashes that can disturb sleep. Individuals experiencing hot flashes can avoid spicy foods and substances like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine to try to reduce these symptoms.
  • Other health conditions: Excessive heat and sweating at night can be caused by certain medications and health issues. If you are experiencing significant heat at night that does not seem to be caused by high temperatures outside and is not improved by simple adjustments, talk to your doctor.

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Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!