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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. There are few things worse than trying to catch some shut-eye (or even just relax!) in a hot, sticky room.
The obvious solution for cool, calm, and REM-ful sleep is an air conditioner. A nice blast of cool, conditioned air can keep a bedroom at the ideal sleep temperature — roughly between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
But AC uses tons of energy and jacks up your monthly electric bill. So what’s an environmentally responsible, budget-conscious sleeper to do?
A few quick tips and tricks can mean the difference between a sleepless night in a borderline sauna and some blissful Zzz’s. Here are some tried-and-true DIY strategies to cool off on those hot summer nights.
1. Choose cotton
Save the ooh-la-la satin, silk, or polyester sheets for cooler nights. Light-colored bed linens made of lightweight cotton (Egyptian or otherwise) are breathable and excellent for promoting ventilation and airflow.
In the heat, cotton jammies will help you fall asleep faster. And, according to research, they’ll soothe you into the deepest, most restorative sleep stage better than bulkier fabrics like wool.
2. Feel the freezer burn
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.
3. 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.
4. Be creative
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 counter-clockwise, pulling hot air up and out instead of just twirling it around the room.
5. 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.
6. 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 the body instead of being wicked away by fabric.
7. Go old-school
Remember when refrigerators were iceboxes that contained actual blocks of ice? Probably not. This stay-cool trick is straight out of the icebox era, though.
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.
8. Create a cross-breeze
Position a fan across from a window so the wind from outside and the fan combine to make a cooling cross-breeze. Set up multiple fans around the room to make the airflow even more boisterous.
9. 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.
10. Chill in bed
Try a cool pad pillow topper. It’s not only 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 the damper on hot flashes, so it makes sense that they’d do the same for ambient heat.
11. 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.
12. Release your inner Tarzan
Feeling ambitious (or just really, really hot)? Rig up a hammock or set up a simple cot. Both types of beds are suspended on all sides, which increases airflow.
13. 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 the trick, unless you’re really into those 3 a.m. bathroom runs.)
14. 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 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews.
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 at least an hour 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.
15. 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 multi-floor house or apartment, sleep on the ground floor or in the basement instead of on an upper story.
16. Turn off the lights
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Light bulbs (even environmentally friendly CFLs) 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?).
17. Hang out
Cool down 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. Hog the bed
Sleeping alone has its perks, including plenty of space to stretch out. Snoozing in spread-eagle position (i.e., 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.
22. 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.
23. 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 and 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.