The Proper Temperature for Sleep

Though men and women and people in general react differently to the ambient temperature in which they’re sleeping, a safe observation is that, for everyone, a temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Anything above or below will cause difficulties for most people.

“The right temperature — typically a bit on the cool side — can help with sleep quality immensely,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, director of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center in Virginia.

This begs the question, of course, of what to do in extremely warm/hot climes where air-conditioning bills can skyrocket. Even most electrical providers urge keeping the summer thermostat at 78 degrees to save energy.

There are steps you can take if your room temperature is high and uncomfortable (low and uncomfortable means more blankets, jammies, etc.). Since your body heat tends to exit from the head, keep a cold, wet towel on your forehead. (This is also good if you suffer from dry eye.) Also, keep a glass of cold, icy water next to you. And before you go to bed, take a cold bath to begin the body’s process of discharging heat. Finally, sleep under a thin sheet. Your body needs the contact, so thin works great in a warm/hot room, and is better than no tactile sensation for sleep purposes.

These are general guidelines. Remember, as we age and/or gain weight, we react differently to temperatures, so you may need to adjust according. Also, women who are menstruating and facing menopause will experience differing body reactions to heat.

Cooling down also helps bring on sleep. “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, who wrote a chapter on temperature and sleep for a medical textbook. “Think of it as the internal thermostat.”

Temperature can also affect REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the phase when vivid dreams help you purge and assimilate events of the day — and of the past.

Wherever you live, you need to experiment to achieve the best possible room temperature and conditions for you to get a great night’s sleep.

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