The arrival of summer is usually accompanied by feelings of excitement, adventure and fun. In the South especially, part of that summer fun includes being outdoors and enjoying the warmer weather. However, what happens to our bodily functions, like sleep, when the weather rises to a triple digit temperature?
If you’ve ever struggled with getting quality sleep in the summer, it may be time to turn down your air conditioner to a more comfortable temperature.
The Role Temperature Plays in Sleep
Our bodies are designed to maintain an internal temperature in our daily activities; sweating as a result of overheating and shivering from being too cool. However, despite our bodies trying to self-regulate, the environment can also play a huge role on our body temperatures. If it’s too hot outside, our temperature rises and the same with it being too cool. This is also true of non-thermal environmental factors as well, like stress, exhaustion, and exertion.
Because of this, it is critically important that our external environment is not causing our bodies to work to self-regulate when we are trying to sleep.
Experts agree that our thermal environment is one of the most important factors affecting our sleep cycles. When it is too hot in a room and someone is trying to sleep, the body is working much harder to shed excess heat, resulting in this person not being able to sleep, sweating during sleep, or waking from their sleep and not being able to fall back asleep.
In addition, this process of self-regulating internal temperatures while we sleep is keeping the body from resting and reaching Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, therefore affecting sleep quality and efficiency.
Warmer Temperatures Lower Sleep Efficiency
Sleep efficiency, or the total amount of time spent asleep divided by the total amount of time spent in bed, is lowered when a person is constantly waking up or cannot fall asleep – both results of being too hot when sleeping.
Constantly waking from being overheated can make it harder to fall back asleep, further lowering sleep efficiency. For instance, experts gauge 85% or greater to be a good measure of sleep efficiency. When someone is attempting to have quality sleep, but can’t because of not being in a comfortable sleep environment, that percentage goes down.
Not getting enough quality sleep, or having too low of a sleep efficiency percentage, can lead to numerous health issues affecting a person’s physical and mental health.
Tips to Create a More Comfortable Sleep Environment
When warm weather strikes, it is important to try to control the thermal environment as much as possible to ensure that you will be getting quality sleep. See these tips below on ways to help ensure that your sleep isn’t in jeopardy during hot temperatures:
- Maintaining a cooler indoor temperature by utilizing fans or by turning down your air conditioner to a cooler temperature. Experts suggest anywhere from 60-67 degrees as an optimal temperature.
- Dressing in looser fitting and breathable clothing, like cotton, linen or silk. In cooler months, it’s important to dress warmer and keep extremities, like feet, warm too.
- Use bedding that doesn’t trap heat and moisture, like wool or down fabrics. Covering yourself minimally in hot, Summer nights can also help ensure that you won’t become overheated.
- Cooling down slowly once becoming overheated to avoid becoming too cold, therefore becoming more uncomfortable.
If you suspect that there are other reasons (beyond your thermal environment) that are making you too warm or too cool, therefore jeopardizing your sleep quality, you may need to visit a health professional. In addition, our team at Sleep Science Clinics can help you understand the underlying cause(s) for why you may not be achieving optimal sleep.