Jenni June raised four kids as a single mom, in homes in Oregon and Southern California where she wasn’t able to have air conditioning. She says it was hard to see her kids struggle to sleep in the summer heat.
As a result, she developed some creative tricks to cool down her kids before bedtime, like dampening and freezing a teddy bear that they could take to bed.
“It definitely broke my heart for my kids. It was hard to keep them cool and comfortable, and to protect their sleep,” said June, who now works as a child and family sleep consultant. “When a room is overheated because it’s warm outside, it’s a little more of a challenge to keep your core body temperature cool. And that’s absolutely necessary for us to be able to segue into those deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, and transition from one sleep cycle to the next without full arousal in the middle of the night.”
Cooler temperatures actually help your body produce more melatonin, the powerful hormone that work to make you feel sleepy, she explained. So sleeping in a hot room — where it’s nearly impossible to cool down — will be an obstacle to a good night’s rest. The effects of poor sleep are varied but often catastrophic, from avoidable motor vehicle accidents to increased risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
We chatted with a couple of sleep experts, including June, to find out some cheap and easy ways to sleep when it’s hot outside ― no air conditioner required.
1. Close the windows and draw the blinds
This may seem counterintuitive. But June notes that closing windows, drawing shades and sealing up any drafts can help keep your bedroom cool before sundown.
“As it cools off in the evening ... that’s a good time to have your windows open [and get some air circulating],” she said. “When your windows are closed, the best thing to do is circulate the air in the room with a good fan.”
2. Open your bedroom door
Increasing air circulation is critical to cooling down your bedroom, June says. Opening your bedroom door to allow more airflow throughout your house can help keep you cool. She also suggests running as many fans as possible to create movement, and to help wick sweat away from the skin.
3. Sleep downstairs
Heat rises, which means it’s probably going to be cooler in a downstairs living room than an upstairs bedroom. June recommends building a makeshift bedroom for yourself if you have a cooler room downstairs ― layering blankets on the floor, inflating an air mattress or just spreading a sheet on the couch.
4. Eat lighter foods
Believe it or not, what you eat during the day can affect the quality of your sleep. Dr. Joyce Walsleben, a sleep expert and retired professor of medicine at New York University, recommends eating a bit less during the day and choosing lighter foods “so your gut isn’t working overtime and creating more heat.”
5. Freeze your sheets
Or a towel, or a teddy bear, or a water bottle ― the point is to take something cold with you to bed to help cool your sleep environment.
“One of my favorite tricks of all time that worked great with my four kids ... was to take their top sheet, get it damp and wring it out and stick it in the freezer,” June said. “It wasn’t so wet that it soaked the mattress, but it was damp enough that it helped them sleep well at night.“
6. Take a cool shower or bath before bed
Adjusting your core body temperature is key to sleeping well, and taking a cool shower or bath before bed can help to facilitate that.
A cool shower or bath “can significantly cool the body down, especially if it’s a longer, cool bath,” Walsleben said. ”[That] also removes the oils of the day and allows your skin to breathe out toxins, too.“
7. Drink plenty of cold beverages close to bedtime
Walsleben recommends sipping an icy beverage while unwinding for an hour before bedtime. Like a cool shower, drinking ice-cold water can help bring down the body’s core temperature. (Just make sure the drink is caffeine-free and nonalcoholic ― otherwise, it can disrupt sleep.)
8. Sleep naked
If you’re a never-nude, this tip may not work for you. However, June points out that sleeping in your birthday suit means you have less insulation when you’re sleeping, which helps keep your body cool. If you just can’t sleep without your PJs, try jammies that are 100 percent cotton. It’s the most breathable fabric and will carry sweat away from the body.