Cool it in the bedroom for a good night's sleep
Tips for sleeping soundly, starting with finding the right temperature
Anyone who has tossed and turned – and perhaps sweated – through a hot August night will tell you what you likely already know: a cooler bedroom leads to a sounder sleep.
While sleep studies vary in coming up with an ideal temperature for the average person, the ballpark starting point is about 18°C. In general, guys will want it cooler and women might want it a bit warmer, and it takes some experimentation. We're all a bit different, so if you're sharing a bed with someone, it's time for a bit of compromise.
A National Sleep Foundation study in the U.S. a few years ago pegged the ideal temperature at 65°F, which is just a tad higher than 18°C. Scientific research suggests that the key is to find a way to slightly lower the temperature – something your body wants to do – to induce sleep. But if the room is too cold, there's a higher likelihood that you're going to wake up during the night.
Trying different combinations of sheets, blankets and pajamas is also going to help you find that sweet spot. And when you're sharing a bed, it could mean that physiological differences between you and your partner could mean you're in fleece PJs while your partner is wearing nothing but boxers.
Why are we talking about sleep this month? Team Power Smart members can go to their Member Tool Box to enter a contest with a "sleep easy" prize pack that includes a Saje nebulizer (a diffuser for essential oils), a Saje diffuser blend collection, and Arianna Huffington's book The Sleep Revolution. Not a member of Team Power Smart? Join today.
There's a lot of stuff other than temperature that goes into a good night's sleep, from avoiding bright light during that 2 a.m. trip to the bathroom, to resisting the temptation to prep for bed by watching TV or checking your smartphone. But first, we'll take a look at how you can save a few dollars on your heating and cooling bills while maintaining a good temperature for sleep.
Turn down the heat in the winter, don't let the room heat up in the summer
The best part of lowering the heat in your bedroom during colder months is that it will pay off in energy savings. Setting your baseboards to 16°C at night and when you're away (such as at work all day) can help you save up to 10% on your energy bills.
Of course, as we move through spring and into the summer, cooling is the challenge. Keeping that bedroom cool enough to sleep comfortably in is either going to take energy – in the form of air conditioning or a good-sized fan – or some strategy. Start by avoiding solar gain (heat through the windows) during the day by blocking the sun from the room with window coverings. And at night, try to get some airflow going through the room and your home through the strategic opening of windows.
If it's still too hot, opt for a fan. Even a small fan can provide enough air movement to at least create the illusion of cooling, and the sound of a fan can be a sleep inducer itself (and can even take the edge off bothersome noises from outside your home).
Bright light is your enemy before bed, through the night, and in the early morning
We're programmed to exit sleep as daylight appears. So it shouldn't surprise us that switching on a bathroom light in the middle of the night can make it very hard to get back to sleep. Use an LED night light to provide enough illumination to make a bathroom visit safe.
The biggest mistakes are often made just before bed. Going directly from watching TV (or reading an ebook in bed), to having your head on the pillow can be a recipe for a bad night's sleep. If you want to read, which in itself can be a gradual entry toward sleep, consider switching to an old-school book made out of paper.
Early morning light can also kill any chance of a longer sleep, particularly on weekends when you may have the luxury of a sleep-in. Blackout curtains (which can also really help minimize heat gain in the room during the day) may be a great investment. Or you could invest in a night mask that keeps things dark, even after the sun rises.
Five more tips to a good night's sleep
Some of us need all the help we can get when it comes to trying to get in our seven hours plus. So here are five more tips to get to sleep:
- Watch what you eat and drink. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are the obvious things to avoid, even as early as 3 or 4 p.m. for some people. But easing up on the alcohol and high-fat foods just before bed can really pay off as well. On the plus side, small portions of tryptophan-rich or tryptophan-inducing foods such as whole grains, bananas, nuts, dairy and even poultry, can help carry you off to sleep.
- Exercise. Try not to work out late in the evening (anyone who plays late-night hockey knows how difficult it can be to calm down after a game), but regular exercise can really help you sleep. One U.S. study found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week led to a 65% improvement in sleep quality.
- Stick to a schedule. Few things mess up sleep like an erratic sleep schedule, as consistency reinforces your sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. Try to keep it consistent, even on weekends.
- Get a good mattress and pillow. That too-soft or too-firm mattress may be costing you hundreds of hours of sleep each year. Do your homework, test a mattress if you can, and replace a mattress – a rule of thumb is about every eight years – before it starts robbing you of good sleep. And experiment with pillows until you find one that's not a pain in the neck.
- Consider a nightly ritual. Whatever works for you: Caffeine-free tea. Reading. Calming music. A warm bath or shower.