We’ve all been there: You’re tossing and turning in bed, struggling because your sweat has you practically glued to the sheets. It. Is. Awful. And not good for that ideal sleep temperature.
The obvious solution for cool, calm, and REM-ful sleep is an air conditioner. But AC uses tons of energy and jacks up your monthly electric bill. So what’s an environmentally responsible, budget-conscious sleeper to do?
Here are some tried-and-true DIY strategies to cool a room and avoid sleeping in the heat on those sticky summer nights.
If you thought fans were just for blowing hot air around, think again! Point box fans out the windows so they push hot air out. Adjust ceiling fan settings so the blades run counterclockwise, pulling hot air up and out instead of just twirling it around the room.
2. Create a cross-breeze
Even more box fan pro tips: Position a fan across from a window so the wind from outside combines with the fan to make a cooling cross-breeze. Set up multiple fans around the room to make the airflow even more boisterous.
If the noise from open windows keeps you up and the fan noise isn’t enough to cover it, try a sound machine (maybe with forest noises!).
3. Go old-school
Remember when refrigerators were iceboxes that contained actual blocks of ice? Probably not. But this stay-cool trick is straight out of the icebox era.
Make a DIY air conditioner by placing a shallow pan or bowl (a roasting pan works nicely) full of ice in front of a fan. The breeze will pick up cold water from the ice’s surface as it melts, creating a cooling mist.
4. Say no to running electronics
We know that ideal sleep requires cooler temps. Those ever-running computers, the TV you left on, all the gadgets you used just before bed — those electronics generate heat.
If you don’t need it on overnight, unplug it. Just make sure to keep your surge protectors plugged in for storm protection.
5. Release your inner Tarzan
Feeling ambitious (or just really, really hot)? Rig up a hammock or set up a simple cot. Both types of bed are suspended on all sides, which increases airflow.
6. Get low
Hot air rises, so set up your bed as close to the ground as possible to beat the heat.
In a one-story home, haul the mattress down from a sleeping loft or high bed and put it on the floor. In a multifloor house or apartment, sleep on the ground floor or in the cool basement instead of on an upper story.
7. Turn off the lights
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Light bulbs (even environmentally friendly CFLs and LEDs) give off heat. Fortunately, in summer it stays light until 8:00 or 9:00 at night.
Take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Keep rooms cool after dark by using lights minimally or not at all (romantic candlelit dinner, anyone?).
8. Keep the light out during the day
If the daytime sun is turning your home into a toaster oven, that heat will linger at night. Keeping your drapes and blinds closed during the day will keep your room cooler and allow it to cool down more quickly when you hit the hay.
9. Hang out
Cool a whole room by hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window. The breeze blowing in will quickly bring down the room’s temperature.
10. Keep the stove off
Summer is not the time to whip up a piping hot casserole or roast chicken. Instead, chow down on cool, room-temperature dishes (salads are clutch) to avoid generating any more heat in the house. If hot food is in order, fire up the grill instead of turning on the oven.
11. Camp at home
Got access to a safe outdoor space like a deck, courtyard, or backyard? Practice those camping skills (and stay cooler) by pitching a tent and sleeping al fresco.
Save the ooh-la-la satin, silk, or polyester sheets for cooler nights. Light-colored bed linens made of lightweight cotton (Egyptian or otherwise) or linen are breathable and excellent for promoting ventilation and airflow.
Stick your sheets in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bed. (Place them in a plastic bag first — unless eau de frozen pizza is your fave aromatherapy scent.)
Granted, this won’t keep you cool all night, but it will provide a brief respite from heat and humidity.
Pro tip: Freezing your socks is another good cool-inducing trick.
14. Get cold comfort
Here’s a year-round tip for keeping utility costs down: Buy a hot water bottle. In the winter, fill it with boiling water for toasty toes without cranking up the thermostat. During the summer, stick it in the freezer to create a bed-friendly ice pack.
15. Sleep like an Egyptian
Those Nile-dwellers knew how to do it right. The “Egyptian method” involves dampening a sheet or towel in cool water and using it as a blanket. Place a dry towel under your body to avoid soaking the mattress.
16. Get loose
Less is definitely more when it comes to summertime jammies. Pick a loose, soft cotton shirt and shorts or underwear.
Going full nude during a heat wave is (unsurprisingly) controversial. Some people believe it helps keep them cool. Others claim going au naturel means sweat stays on your body instead of being wicked away by fabric.
17. Tie up your hair if it’s long
If your hair is long, you’ve probably felt the warm scarf it can create while you’re sleeping. Tie it back with a hair-friendly scrunchie that won’t cause breakage while you sleep. Your now-cooler neck will thank you.
18. Pamper your pulses
Need to cool down stat? Apply ice packs or cold compresses to pulse points at your wrists, neck, elbows, groin, and ankles and behind your knees.
Keeping a spray bottle of water nearby can soothe your balmy skin when you get up to pee too.
19. Chill in bed
Try a cool pad pillow topper. It’s energy-efficient and adds an extra-plush, super cushy layer to your bed. Research has shown that these toppers have enough of a cooling effect to put a damper on hot flashes, so it makes sense that they’d do the same for ambient heat.
20. Take down the pillow fluff
If you usually smoosh your head onto a big, fluffy pillow, consider swapping that pillow for a lighter, less dense version. Your head tends to retain heat, and surrounding it with fluff can keep heat from escaping.
21. Turn that unfluffy pillow
Wake up soaked? Get in the habit of turning your pillow to that sweet, sweet cool side when you feel it’s gotten too toasty.
22. Dress light
The right bedtime ensemble is key. Cooling PJs are made with moisture-wicking fabrics like cotton and bamboo or high-tech synthetics like CoolMax that prevent nighttime overheating.
23. Fill up the tank
Get a leg up on hydration by drinking a glass of water before bed. Tossing and turning and sweating at night can result in dehydration, so get some H2O in the tank beforehand. (Pro tip: Just 8 ounces will do — unless you’re really into those 3 a.m. bathroom runs.)
24. Soak in it
When you’re sweat-soaked, the last thing you might want to do is soak in a warm bath. But surprisingly, it works, according to a 2019 study.Haghayegh S, et al. (2019). Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008
The warmth of the water sends a rush of blood to your hands and feet, where the veins are right under your skin. This lets off extra heat and cools your bloodstream. Ideally, hop in the tub 1 to 2 hours before bed to give your body time to cool off before you slip between the sheets.
Of course, if you’re too sticky to sleep, a cold shower could be more appealing. Standing under a stream of cool H2O brings down your core body temperature and rinses off sweat (ick) so you can hit the hay feeling cool and clean.
When you’re sweat-soaked, the last thing you might want to do is soak in a tub of warm water. But, surprisingly, it works.
25. Avoid the “meat sweats”
Instead of big, heavy meals, go for smaller, lighter dinners, which are easier to metabolize. It takes a lot more energy for your body to break down protein than fats or carbs. So swap that huge steak for a platter of fruits, veggies, and legumes.
Also avoid eating heavy meals and consuming alcohol for 2 to 3 hours before bedtime for optimal cool potential.
26. Move your workouts away from bedtime
Exercise has been shown to help you sleep better. But if you’re apt to get active late in the day or evening, consider moving your Jazzercise earlier in the day so you don’t bring that hot bod to bed before it cools down.
27. Hog the bed
Sleeping alone has its perks, including plenty of space to stretch out. Snoozing in spread-eagle position (with your arms and legs not touching each other) is best for reducing body heat and letting air circulate around your body.
Hit the hay in this sleep position to keep your limbs from getting super sweaty.
28. Keep the critters in their own beds
This one can be a challenge if you’ve got cuddly pets waiting to snuggle up with their big, hot bodies. If you can resist their puppy-dog eyes, try to have them sleep in their own separate beds (or at least at the bottom of yours).
29. Go rustic
When temperatures soar, trade in that extra-comfy mattress for a minimalist straw or bamboo mat. These all-natural sleeping surfaces are less comfortable, but they don’t retain heat like a puffy, cloth-covered mattress.
30. Get creative with grains
Rice and buckwheat aren’t just for eating! These cupboard staples can also keep you cool on hot nights.
Stock up on buckwheat pillows, which don’t absorb heat like cotton or down. For a cold compress on really hot nights, fill a sock with rice, tie it off, and stick it in the freezer for an hour or so. The compress will stay chilly for up to 30 minutes — definitely enough time to nod off.
Sleep is essential for your health. And higher temperatures can lead to insomnia.Bjorvatn B, et al. (2018). The association between insomnia and bedroom habits and bedroom characteristics: An exploratory cross-sectional study of a representative sample of adults. DOI: 10.1016/j.sleh.2017.12.002 If your nighttime routine starts to feel like Joe vs. the Volcano, it’s time to get your cool bedtime strategy in gear.
Here’s the lowdown on the best approach to sleeping in the heat:
Make your bed a haven of chill with fans, extra airflow, and low light.
Stay on lower levels in your home and minimize heat from electronics and ovens.
Opt for light clothing, bedding, pillows, and mattress pads to keep things cooler.
Maintain some space away from pets, sleep partners, and even your own hair.
Stay hydrated and avoid heavy foods and alcohol right before bed.
Use DIY techniques like water bottles, spray bottles, showers, and a DIY air conditioner to hack your space for maximium cool potential.
Bjorvatn B, et al. (2018). The association between insomnia and bedroom habits and bedroom characteristics: An exploratory cross-sectional study of a representative sample of adults. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2017.12.002
Marshall-McKenna R, et al. (2016). A randomized trial of the cool pad pillow topper versus standard care for sleep disturbance and hot flushes in women on endocrine therapy for breast cancer. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-015-2967-3