If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you might want to consider having a look at your thermostat before you run off to your doctor to try out sleep medication.
Sleeping hot can be one of the biggest problems when it comes time to get some shut-eye.
What might surprise you, though, is just how cool your body really needs the room to be in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Bodies are finicky things, and maybe nowhere more so than when you’re trying to catch some Z’s.
So, here it is: everything you need to know about the best temperature for sleep.
Keep Your Room Around 65 Degrees
According to SleepFoundation.org, the absolute best room temperature for getting to sleep is right around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other sites give more of a range – sleep.org suggests 60 to 67 degrees – but right around that area seems to be the sweet spot for snoozing.
Getting too far above or below that magic number can lead to sleep issues.
You might feel restless while trying to get to sleep, and the quality of your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep might be effected as well (this is the sleep stage in which you dream).
One good analogy for considering about your sleep situation in general is to think about your room as a cave.
Caves are cool, dark places, with few distractions.
These are the kind of conditions your body needs to get the highest-quality sleep.
The Best Temperature for Babies
If you have babies or toddlers in your home, on the other hand, you might want to consider raising the thermostat just a little higher – about 65 to 70 degrees.
Dress your little one in a single layer of a long shirt and pants, and they’ll be getting to sleep in no time.
If you can’t afford to keep your thermostat that low, though, you’ll want to stick with short sleeves, or maybe just a diaper.
If it’s the winter and you can’t keep that hot, on the other hand, stick to footie PJs!
Play Around With the Thermostat
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that everything about sleep is incredibly personal.
So while one kind of person might do just great at that magic 65 degrees, you might actually find it a little hot or a little cool.
Around 65 is a good bet, but don’t just take our word for it – you’re going to have to get out there and mess around a little with the thermostat to find out what works best for you.
Why Your Body Needs It Cool
Your body needs to cool down at night in order to get to sleep.
Although you’ve probably heard that your body’s natural core temperature is 98.6 degrees, this actually fluctuates a little throughout the day, dipping about one degree in the hour or two before you settle down for the night.
Think about lizards.
They don’t have the kind of stable inner temperature that we do as mammals, so they get more active when it’s hotter and less active when it’s cooler.
We’re the same way, to a certain extent.
It’s usually unconscious, but as we get more and more tired at night, our body temperature sinks lower and lower.
Your body finally reaches its lowest temperature around five in the morning, before slowly creeping its way back up for the morning.
The heat travels out from the core to the extremities, first causing the skin to rise in temperature a while before bed and then gradually cooling off.
Shivering and Sweating at Night
If you’re not keeping your room at the right temperature during the night, your body is likely to try and compensate on its own.
This is why some people find themselves waking up damp in the mornings, or waking up shivering during the night.
They’re not keeping their room at the right temperature, and their sleep is suffering as a result.
After all, you don’t want your body to be doing much of anything at night except sleeping.
Anything it tries to do besides this is going to leave you waking up less rested than you’d like in the morning!
Note that the kind of sweating we’re talking about here is not the same thing as night sweats, which are often brought on by medications or underlying medical conditions, rather than improper room temperatures.
According to the Mayo Clinic, night sweats are “repeated episodes of extreme perspiration” – not just waking up a little damp in the morning from not keeping the room cool enough.
If you’re having night sweats and you don’t know why, consult your physician.
Insomniacs Have Higher Night Body Temperatures
Interestingly enough, people suffering from insomnia have been found to have significantly higher body temperatures at night when they should be settling down for sleep.
Their cores are consistently warmer than those of healthy sleepers when they lie down at night, leading to restlessness and increased wakefulness.
Basically, they’re having to wait for their bodies to finish cooling down for the night – a process that can take hours.
So while sleeping pills can help some people some of the time, it’s not really getting to the heart of the problem for a lot of insomniacs.
It’s a problem with their bodies, not their brains, which might explain why sleep medications don’t always work as well on people with insomnia as they might hope.
These are treating the symptom, rather than the cause.
Lowering Body Temperature for Bed
For insomniacs, lowering the body temperature to the levels it needs could actually be as simple as picturing the right imagery.
That’s what University of South Australia researcher Kurt Lushington found, at least.
By picturing images like lying on a beach, 75 to 80% of participants studied were able to lower their body temperature by one and a half degrees or more.
Cooler Temperatures Speed Up Metabolism
But better sleep isn’t the only benefit of turning down the A/C at night.
According to a 2014 study by a team at Virginia Commonwealth University, keeping your bedroom to a nice, cool temperature can help with weight loss, as well!
Basically, there are two kinds of fat (or “adipose tissue”) in the body: brown fat, and white fat.
White fat is the bad stuff.
It stores your extra energy and increases your risk for all kinds of diseases.
Brown fat, on the other hand, actually burns calories in order to keep your body at the temperature your need.
This study looked at five healthy men who slept at 75 degrees for the first month, 66 degrees for the second month, 75 degrees again for the third month, and 81 degrees for the last month.
What the researchers found surprised them.
After one month of sleeping with a room temperature of 66 degrees, the men had, on average, an 42% increase in brown fat volume (that’s the good stuff, remember), and a 10% increase in the calorie-burning activity of their fat.
All that brown fat went away during the month the men went back to 75 degrees at night, and decreased even more when they put the room temperature back to 81 degrees.
The men’s bodies seemed to be adding on heat-generating fat in response to the cold, and getting rid of it in the heat.
So if you’re looking to lose weight, keeping your room at a cool temperature might be the way to go!
Keep Your Feet Warm
Although it should be pretty clear by now that keeping your room temperature cool at night is the way to go, your hands and feet pose something of an exception to the rule.
Heating up cold feet causes vasodilation, or dilation of your blood vessels.
This leads to heat being redistributed throughout your body, which lets your brain know it’s time to sleep.
Research actually suggests that the warmer your hands and feet are at night, the less time it’ll take you to get to sleep.
If you’re comfortable with it, you might want to consider wearing socks to bed to help out with this.
If you’d rather try out an alternative, try using slippers, or keep a hot water bottle at the foot of your bed.
You might think that seems a little funny, but science disagrees!
What If I Can’t Keep My House That Cool?
If sleeping at the doctor-recommended 65 degrees Fahrenheit just isn’t going to work out for you, know that that’s not your only option here.
There are actually lots of ways to keep cool at night, most of them a heck of a lot more energy efficient than keeping your room so chilly.
You can check out our full article on it here – but keep in mind that air conditioning often really is the best way to go.
So, there you have it – everything you ever wanted to know about the best temperature for sleep.
It might seem a little cool to you, or you might balk a little at the dent in your electric bill.
At the end of the day, we all know these is a totally personal decision.
Still, keep in mind what the science says, especially if you’re having trouble with your sleep.
It’s hard to overestimate the power of a good night’s rest!