Since you’re reading this, you must have dealt with the frustrations of waking up sweating because of the heat or shivering because of the cold. Neither of these is good since the point of going to sleep is staying that way.
Before we get to what we’ve found works for us, let’s talk a little bit about the “science.”
The Science of Sleep Temperature
What’s Going On With Your Body?
Let’s first take a quick look at what’s happening in our bodies when we doze off at night.
When we fall asleep, our core temperature drops slightly. This drop in temperature is a natural part of the sleep process which facilitates our body’s repair and regeneration.
The whole sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is governed by a complex web of hormones and neurotransmitters. Body temperature is linked to our circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep and wakefulness.
When you’re too hot, your body struggles to lower its internal temperature. This makes it harder to trigger and maintain that complex web of physiological actions that lead to good-quality sleep.
On the other hand, when you’re too cold, your body struggles to maintain comfortable temperature regulation. In particular, cold exposure causes muscles to tighten. Bottom line—feeling too cold makes it tough to relax.
We don’t pretend to know how it all fits together, but we do know that being too warm or too cold leads to restless sleep. That’s not the healthy sleep we’re after.
So, what’s the Best Temperature for Sleep?
Seems like a simple question that science should be able to nail, right? Well, maybe not.
The general consensus of the supposed sleep experts is the best sleeping temperature for most people is between 60-67°F (15.5-19.5°C).
Seems simple enough, right? Again, maybe not. The question that we bumped into right out of the gate is what are we supposed to be measuring?
For the research or studies that say anything on the topic, the temperatures identified are for your room temperature. Fair enough, but we saw a problem.
Let’s assume you set your thermostat at 65°F. You climb into your bed in nothing but underwear and kick off all the blankets so you’re only under a sheet. Your spouse, clothed in flannel pajamas, climbs into bed and snuggles in with a stack of blankets.
In the middle of the night, you meet at the thermostat. You want to turn it up because it’s too cold while your spouse wants to turn it down because it is too hot. Who’s right? You both are and therein lies the problem.
So is science of no help in figuring out the optimal sleeping temperature? Fortunately, science does identify important factors for finding the ideal room temperature. It’s just that the general guidance doesn’t give you the whole story.
How Does Temperature Affect Sleep Quality?
So, what does science tell us about the optimal sleeping temperature? One thing that science makes clear about ambient temperature is that you’re looking for a cooler environment.
This is because our core body temperature is part of our circadian clock. As your body sees its temperature drop, it sends a message to your brain that it’s time to shut down for the night. For instance, a lower bedroom temperature can spur melatonin production.
If you’re too hot or cold before bed, your circadian rhythms can get, well, out of rhythm. This can mess up your body clock. No melatonin production means a delay in sleep initiation. That is a bad way to start the night.
The problem of being too hot or too cold during the sleep cycle doesn’t stop there. The discomfort creates restlessness which messes up your sleep stages.
Even if you don’t remember tossing and turning all night, some mornings you just know you didn’t get good sleep the night before. This is because of an imbalance in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and deep sleep.
In short, the wrong room temperature may mean you wake up exhausted even after spending eight hours in bed. So, what’s the answer?
It’s Time to Get Personal
The first thing we realized is that the search for the ideal room temperature has to be the search for your ideal room temperature.
Each person’s internal temperature and circadian rhythm are different from other people’s and can vary from day to day. Further, the ambient temperature that is comfortable for you will depend on what you like to wear to bed and how many blankets you like to use.
So the bad news is that finding the best temperature is not a one-size-fits-all search. The good news is that you can dial in the right ambient temperature for you with a bit of work and consistency.
Sometimes Being Alone Isn’t the Worst Thing
So if you live alone, this process will be much easier than if you live with others. This is because you have full sovereignty over the thermostat and can control many of the other variables that impact sleep.
Lucky you. This makes dialing in the best temperature for a better quality sleep environment quicker and less complicated.
It Takes Two (and Maybe More) to Tango
If two or more of you share a thermostat, this will involve a bit of a dance to dial things in. After all, the right temperature for one person may be too cold or hot for someone else.
Getting buy-in from the other folks before changing the bedroom temperature is key. We started with a sleep inventory for everyone:
- How do you feel the sleeping temperature is—too hot, too cold, or just right?
- What do you normally wear to bed?
- What covers do you sleep with?
Now, take a look at the resulting info to see identify where there are people in the same room or thermostat zone that are in conflict. If one is too hot while the other is too cold, you’re going to evaluate what if anything can be done.
This seems pretty obvious. But as we looked at websites discussing bedroom temperature and healthy sleep, they largely ignored other people.
So, if you find folks in your household at different ends of the sleeping temp spectrum, you have to address that before touching the thermostat.
There may be some low-hanging fruit. In our case, we found that there were some bedding adjustments we could make. Adding a blanket and warmer attire to those who sleep a bit colder was the easiest first step.
Conversely, those that sleep a bit warmer had to accept giving up their down comforter. They also had to rethink their pajamas, looking for something cooler.
Bottom line is that you have to lay off the thermostat until you have addressed the potential discomfort of those whose core body temperature is in the wrong direction of the proposed thermostat change.
Setting Up the Lab
So, you’re either living alone or have handled the heat/cool disparities among your co-habitators. Now it’s time to try eliminating other variables that impact sleep before you start with temperature regulation.
The two areas to look at are your sleep environment and your sleep initiation and wake time. As to the former, a dark, quiet bedroom will generally lead to better quality sleep. Do what you can to reduce exposure to light and noise.
As to timing, your body clock can be adjusted, but that is a fight for another day. When testing sleeping temperature, try to make your sleep cycle consistent. Also, try to target a healthy sleep period. At least six or seven hours is a minimum target.
If you suddenly go to be an hour earlier than normal, you may have more restless sleep. a possible. Your circadian clock just doesn’t adjust that quickly.
Similarly, a cooler environment won’t solve your sleep quality issues if you go to bed at 2:00 AM and need to wake up 4 hours later.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Now that you’re all geared up, it might be tempting to make big changes in your room temperature. We get it.
But be mindful that the goal is setting up your body to enjoy good sleep quality on an ongoing basis, not just tonight. Allow your body to adjust more slowly to the changing sleeping environment and you’ll be better able to find your sweet spot.
That means changing temperature only a degree or two and giving your body a few nights to adapt. A cooler environment may impact both your circadian rhythms and sleep stages.
Make small adjustments and allow your body to settle in and you’ll sleep better in no time.
Mind the Budget & the Environment
We do need to mention that dropping the thermostat temp can hit you in the wallet, particularly during summer months. Sleep is golden, but it will cost you a fair bit of gold when using air conditioning to get to 65 degrees on a hot summer evening.
Also, air conditioning is the biggest user of electricity in many households. In turn, power generation is second only to transportation in producing greenhouse gases. Just be mindful of the planet as you embark on this journey. Your grandkids will thank you.
So, does that mean you have to choose between sleeping and being friendly to your wallet and the planet? We have found a few ways that we’ve been able to try and balance out sleep temperature regulation with power bills and the environment.
Sadly, these don’t entirely solve the cost concerns as they require a bit of upfront cost. That said, we’ve found that they offer a good ROI, all things considered.
Cool Where You Sleep, Not Your Whole Home
Most people enjoy better quality sleep when their bedroom temperature is a bit cooler.
But there has been no research that has shown that people sleep better when their kitchen is cooler. If you happen to sleep in your kitchen, it might be a different ball game for you.
The bottom line is that the place that most people go when wanting to sleep cooler is their thermostat. This means adjusting the temperature for the entire home, not just the bedroom.
There are a few ways to get more surgical in what you are trying to accomplish. These are listed in order of cost.
While fans are not going to take a sweltering summer night down to 65 degrees, they definitely help make a warm room more comfortable.
Ceiling fans are great because they are out of the way, but floor or table fans can direct more airflow right where you want it.
The good news for fans is that they are inexpensive and use very little power. If your budget is tight, fans are the right place to start.
Room-Sized Air Conditioning Units
The next step up is an air conditioning unit that is sized for your bedroom(s). These can be window mounted or portable.
They’re not cheap and take more electricity (and money) to run. They also take a bit of setup.
That said, they allow you to dial in room temperature much better than your home thermostat. On top of that, they are certainly a more cost and environmentally sensible option if you can afford the initial cost.
Bed Environment Systems
Alright, if you have some extra cash and are really serious about improving sleep quality, some products out there allow you to change the temperature of your bed.
Here is where you can really start dialing in your sleep environment. As an added bonus, many allow you to have dual zones so you and your ‘sleeping buddy’ can control your own side.
There are a number of systems out there, each with its pros and cons. For instance, some use water in a closed-loop system while others use air. The water-based systems do require a bit more upkeep but, from our experience, offer more consistent cooling.
We’ll not go through all of them, but here are a few that we think are notable. These are all systems that use your existing mattress. Some mattresses have temperature regulation, but these can get really spendy.
Prices are general approximations and are for a dual-control, king-sized bed.
BedJet (Air ~$1,000)
We’ve used the BedJet and it worked pretty well. It uses a special sheet that goes under your other bedding. Cooled or warmed air is pumped through the sheet. We found it is not as consistent as the 8Sleep but it is a fraction of the cost.
Sleep.me Dock Pro (Water ~$2,000)
We have not used this system, but it seems like a less feature-rich version of the 8Sleep. One thing to note is that both sides have their own module versus the 8Sleep which handles both zones with a single module. We’re not sure if that is a pro or a con.
SleepNumber DualTemp Layer (Air ~$2,000)
We’ve not used this system either. Unlike the BedJet, the air is pumped beneath you instead of through a top sheet. Seems like a good idea unless you can block the airflow.
8Sleep Pod 3 Cover (Water ~$2,500)
After using the BedJet for a couple of years we decided to splurge and get the 8Sleep system. We’ve loved it. We do have to fill it up with distilled water every few months, but that is a small price to pay in our minds. Cons? Obviously, the upfront cost is one. The other is that it does change the way your bed feels. We haven’t minded that at all, but it may be a factor for some people. It’s nice to be able to experiment with different temperatures
Putting Sleeping Temperature to Bed
What is the best temperature for sleep for you? What is the best method of regulating temperature? Fortunately and unfortunately, the answer to these questions surrounding physical health is personal.
Put in a little bit of work and you can figure out the answer to the first question. Evaluate your budget and circumstances and you’ll be better able to answer the second.
Hopefully, you’ve found something that helps you progress toward getting better quality sleep.
We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out with any comments or questions. Good luck and sweet dreams!