Struggling to get a good night’s sleep on a hot summer night might be more common than you think. According to research by Gallup, 2 out of 3 Americans say warm temperatures disrupt their sleep frequently, and the Better Sleep Council found that sound disruptions are the only issue that disrupts our sleep more often than temperature fluctuations. And with the ideal temperature for sleep falling between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no surprise the problem with overheating at night increases during the summer months.
Bryan Umiker, owner of The Ethical Mattress Company and a 20+ year veteran of the mattress industry, says we can reduce the occurrence of overheating by making thoughtful choices about our sleep environment. “Our bodies need to shed two degrees of core temperature at night in order to achieve the optimal amount of REM sleep for proper recovery,” says Umiker. “The way our bodies achieve this is by radiating heat away from our skin while we sleep, so it’s critical we surround our bodies with breathable materials that allow for maximum air flow.”
According to Umiker, waking up hot and sweaty is directly related to the materials and fabrics we surround ourselves with while we sleep. “You wouldn’t wear a parka outside on a hot summer day, for obvious reasons, and the same is true of our bedding. During the summer months we should adapt our bedding to the warmer climate and utilize lighter, breathable fabrics made from natural materials.” Umiker says it’s widely understood that cotton fabrics are superior in breathability to synthetic fabrics, but he goes on to say that most people are not aware that the weave of the fabric is also important. “Knits are far more breathable than wovens,” Umiker states. “The best fabric for breathability is a 100% cotton jersey knit, followed by a percale weave. As for sateen sheets, my advice is to leave them in the linen closet during the summer.”
Asked how important the right mattress is to prevent over-heating, Umiker says it is “absolutely critical”, and that breathability and airflow should also be a high priority when choosing a mattress. “The memory foam manufacturers know their products lead to over-heating, with studies showing they can add as much as 10 degrees to the micro-climate surrounding your body at night. So now they have started injecting other chemicals and gels into their foams to try and reduce the overall buildup of heat.” But Umiker feels this process, and the marketing efforts surrounding gel-memory foams, is disingenuous. “If you ask me, the foam industry using the term ‘cool memory foam’ is comparable to the coal industry using the term ‘clean coal’. It’s just incredibly misleading. Cooler than what, exactly?”
While Umiker asserts that investing in an all-natural and breathable mattress is critical, he said there are plenty of simple steps we can take to keep cool and comfortable in bed this summer, including:
1. Maximize your airflow. “When it comes to staying cool at night, remember that airflow is the key”, Umiker said.
- Open windows and doors around the house to create a draught.
- Utilize fans strategically to create crosscurrents, and box fans in windows to pull hot air out of the house.
- Set your ceiling fan to rotate in a counterclockwise direction so that it pushes air downward into the room and generates noticeable airflow.
2. Lose the winter bedding. “We don’t wear the same clothes year-round, and our bedding shouldn’t be any different”, says Umiker.
- Put the blankets away and shift to lighter cotton sheets such as knits or percales. If you use a comforter or duvet, make sure it has a low tog rating.
- Wear light cotton nightwear, ideally made from a jersey-knit.
3. Shower power. “A cool shower can be very refreshing on a hot summer night”, Umiker said.
- Don’t go too cold, as a lukewarm temperature will facilitate heat loss better than a cold temperature.
4. Stay cool without air conditioning. “There are tricks to creating a cooler environment without needing central air”, Umiker said.
- Chilling your pillowcase in the fridge before bedtime can help lower your body temperature.
- Ditto for your socks.
- Use an electric fan with a tray of ice cubes in front to direct cool air towards your head and torso. Or switch the ice cube tray for two frozen water bottles placed directly behind the fan.
- Keep plenty of cold water handy in a glass near the bed.
- Avoid alcohol, as too much can contribute to over-heating.
6. Less snuggling. “If you’ve ever thought your sleep partner felt like a furnace at night, you weren’t wrong! They’re literally radiating heat to reduce their core temp”, Umiker says with a laugh.
- Put some space between the two of you to help stay cool.
As for the last tip, Umiker adds one last suggestion. “If your bed isn’t big enough to get a little distance, you can always visit us here at The Ethical Mattress Company on Millburn Avenue. We can definitely help you solve that!”