Too hot to sleep? 11 ways to keep bedrooms cool during hot weather

Sudden sweltering nights ruining your sleep? Check out these simple tricks to banish the heatwave from the bedroom
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  • All year long, most of us dream of basking in hot weather but – and as much as we hate to complain – when the weather suddenly becomes freakishly warm, it can play havoc with our sleep.

    While most of us lap up the sunshine during the day, those long hot nights are notable for the absence of shut-eye. Fear not, if your home isn’t kitted out with air-con there are plenty of simpler ways to help keep your bedroom cool during the warmer months to help get a better night’s sleep.

    After a few hours of tossing and turning, we all want to know one thing – what can we do when the mercury rises and it’s too hot to sleep?

    How to keep bedrooms cool during hot weather

    grey bedroom

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Jonathan Jones

    ‘A baking bedroom can impact on our comfort,’ agrees Simon Williams of the National Bed Federation (NBF). ‘Your body temperature needs to drop slightly before you go to bed, which is why you just can’t sleep when you’re too hot.

    ‘An ideal bedroom temperature should be around 16 to 18°C, so it can be difficult to get comfortable in a hot and stuffy space, which leaves many people suffering from a disturbed night’s sleep.’

    Fortunately, there are some amazing ways to stay cool when it’s too hot to sleep. From cooling pillows to creating airflow, try these simple and effective steps to ensure you stay cool and comfortable in bed this summer.

    1. Block out the light

    grey bedroom with white voile curtains

    Image credit: Future PLC/ James French

    Keep curtains or blinds drawn during the day to keep the sun out. Blackout blinds were made for this sort of weather and shutters will also come into their own, blocking the light while letting in the air. Lights and appliances can generate a lot of heat, so turn them off unless you need them.

    ‘To begin with, consider factors such as which direction your window faces’ says Jason Peterkin, director at 247 Blinds. ‘For example, a south-facing room will benefit from thicker, thermal materials to help keep it cool. Generally speaking, wooden venetian blinds and plantation shutters are great for keeping the temperature down in the home as they allow you to adjust the amount of light filtering into the room by altering the size of the gap between the slats. The wood also acts as a natural heat conductor, helping to keep the warm air out during the summer months.

    ‘If you want to completely block out the sunlight, opt for blackout blinds. The thick fabric will not only help to regulate the temperature of the house, but also ensure you get a better night’s sleep during the brighter months and lighter mornings.’

    2. Encourage airflow in the right rooms

    Attic bedroom with black feature wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    When we are hot, it’s tempting to crack open as many windows and doors as possible to allow air to circulate. However, this isn’t always the smartest option. Deciding whether to keep windows closed or open them slightly involves considering the direction the sun is facing. North-facing and south-facing windows need different consideration when it comes to cooling down our rooms.

    ‘Choosing whether to open your windows or keep them closed depends on their positioning’ advises Adam Pawson, Head of Digital at Safestyle. ‘If your windows are south-facing, it is best to close your curtains or blinds, or put the window in the night vent position to allow some air in. Whereas, if your windows are north-facing, it’s advised to keep them shut to avoid any hot air coming in.’

    If you’ve got an attic, try opening the hatch. Hot air rises and this will give it somewhere to go.

    3. Switch your sheets

    wool bedding

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    It’s time to swap winter sheets for summer alternatives – those with natural materials. Doing more than just freshening up your bedroom, lighter and more breathable sheets can help avoid feeling stuffy and sweaty during sleep.

    ‘Pure cotton sheets have sensory benefits and, being naturally breathable, help to regulate your temperature and moisture levels while you sleep,’ explains Lucy Ackroyd, Head of Design at Christy. ‘Preventing the dreaded clammy feeling you can experience with synthetic fibres.’

    ‘Not only that, but high thread count fabrics are smoother against the skin, so as well as being much more comfortable, you are less likely to feel tangled up or trapped by rougher fabrics that cling, especially to nightwear. Try Percale as opposed to Sateen sheets, as they’re made with a looser weave and therefore are much more breathable.’

    ‘As well as making sure you have the right sheets for summer, you should also make sure you have the right duvet too. During these hotter months, a lighter tog of 4.5 is recommended. If you like something a little heavier but still breathable, try a 10.5 tog.’

    4. Welcome nature into the bedroom

    bedroom with wood panel walls and house plants on wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Catherine Gratwicke

    House plants have never been so popular, and now the hot weather will give us even more excuse to add to the collection – because did you know they can help keep you cool? ‘Indoor plants can help cool a house in warm weather, as they consume hot air for their natural processes’ explain the team at Stelrad. ‘When an atmosphere heats up, plants will often release excess water into the air from their leaves – as a result they cool themselves and the surrounding environment. Some of the best ones include rubber plants, Chinese evergreens, palms, mother-in-law’s tongues and ficus benjaminas.’

    5. Head to a different room

    Some rooms of the house are naturally cooler than others. Remember that heat rises, so you might find downstairs areas less oppressive on a warm night. North-facing rooms also tend to be a lot cooler than those in the rest of a property. Even if you can’t relocate your bedroom permanently, it might be worth sleeping on a sofa or air bed.

    6. Cool your bedding

    Small white kitchen with blue Smeg fridge

    Despite ridding your bed of thick duvets and blankets – ideally using a cotton sheet and the lowest tog rating you can find, you may still be hot. Try these cooling bedroom hacks to improve your slumber:

    • Fill a hot water bottle and put it in the freezer before you go to sleep.
    • Cool a pillowcase in the fridge before bedtime or try one of the new cooling pillows that are available to buy. Filled with a temperature reactive gel, the pillows absorb excess heat, drawing it away from your body and cooling your skin.
    • Another great trick is putting your bed sheet in the fridge or freezer (use a zip-lock bag to keep it dry). Take it out just before you’re ready to sleep and it will be perfectly chilled.

    7. Switch off the lights

    As you may remember from science class, light bulbs give off heat. Switching off helps to keep things feeling cooler. ‘It’s best to avoid any sort of extra light or heat sources when the temperature is already scorching!’ say the team at Stelrad. ‘Plus, you’ll save money on the electric bill – it’s a win win!’

    8. Use cool technology to sleep smarter

    Use an electric fan: see our best fans to cool your home this summer. Quiet tower fans with timers and a choice of settings are the smart choice if you struggle to fall asleep, but desk fans and pedestal fans will do the job nicely, too. If it’s really hot, put a shallow bowl of iced water in front of the fan to cool the air.

    Top tip: ‘Put a bowl bucket or even tupperware filled with ice water directly in front of a fan. As the ice melts the breeze from the fan will pick up the cool air coming from the ice’s surface’ explains the team at Stelrad. ‘This will recreate a cool breeze, similar to an air conditioning unit. Alternatively, a wet flannel or small, damp towel placed over a fan works just as well.’

    9. Try natural ways to sleep easier

    Large en suite shower room shower rooms Colin Poole

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    • Keep a cool head – getting worked up is only going to compound the problem, as thrashing around will make you hotter. Keep perfectly still and maybe try meditation techniques.
    • Have a cool shower or bath before bedtime to lower your core body temperature.
    • ‘Cold press’ your pulse points. The pulse points on your body can cool the rest of you effectively. Place a cold flannel or ice cubes in a plastic bag on your wrists and neck and you’ll be surprised by the effectiveness. Just don’t let them melt in your bed!
    • Think about essential oils. Lavender is a fantastic sleep aid. Try mixing a few drops with cold water in a small spritz bottle, and spray around your bedroom before you hit the hay.
    • Drink plenty of cold water during the evening and keep a glass by the bed.
    • Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol or a big meal. They can all make you feel hot and steamy in the middle of the night through dehydration and over-active digestion.
    • No alcohol – dehydrating yourself before sleep on a hot night isn’t the best decision, obviously. Stay away from the drink to heighten your chances of sleep during a heat wave.

    10. Wear the right clothes to bed

    Wear light cotton nightwear. This is actually better than wearing nothing at all, as natural fabrics will absorb any perspiration. A top tip:  Cool socks in the fridge and wear them. Cooling your feet lowers the overall temperature of your skin and body.

    11. Choose the right mattress

    Green bedroom with DIY headboard idea using shelves

    Image credit: FuturePLC/ Simon Whitmore

    Jonathan Warren, director at bed specialist Time4Sleep comments on just how important it is to choose the right mattress and what to consider if you struggle to sleep during the summer. ‘There are a number of mattress options available that can help you to regulate your body’s temperature. Generally speaking, a mattress with a high content of natural fillings such as wool, cotton or bamboo is often a great choice for those suffering to sleep in the heat as they tend to be cooler as well as being naturally hypoallergenic.’

    ‘Other options to consider are new generation elite gel memory foam mattresses that include intelligent temperature regulating technology to help keep you cool in the summer and warm during the winter. These mattresses include a temperature regulating cool gel that adjusts with your body temperature to ensure you’re never too hot or cold during the night, allowing you to have a truly blissful night’s sleep.’ We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to! Read: Best mattress reviews 2021 – the top sprung, hybrid and memory foam choices as tested by our reviewers

    Why is it hard to sleep in the heat?

    ‘Warmer temperatures in the summertime, can cause discomfort and restlessness.  A bedroom and a bed that’s too warm can interfere with your body’s thermoregulation abilities and cause fatigue’ warns Ana Brito, Somnologist at Sleep8.

    ‘Body temperature affects not only sleep onset, but also sleep quality and the time spent in different sleep stages. A higher core body temperature has been associated with a decrease in restorative slow-wave sleep and subjective sleep quality’ Ana explains.

    ‘During REM sleep the body ceases most temperature-regulation behaviours, such as sweating or shivering, leaving you more sensitive to ambient temperature changes. Accordingly, excessively hot ambient temperatures also appear to lessen the time spent in REM sleep.’

    ‘Therefore, paying special attention to our bedding and the bed covers during summer, can help you ensure that your sleep is not too  affected by the heat.’

    Too hot to sleep? Try these cool products

    The cooling pillow

    Chillmax cooling pillow

    Image credit: JML

    Chillmax Pillow’s inner gel reacts to your body temperature to absorb excess heat, drawing it away from your skin to produce a natural cooling effect for up to three hours.

    Buy now: Chillmax Cooling Pillow Gel Insert, £9.99, JML

    The cooling mattress topper

    dunelm cooling mattress topper

    Image credit: Dunelm

    Buy now: Gel Fushion Memory Foam Mattress Topper, £125 for a double, Dunelm

    If you’re not in the market for buying a new mattress, this topper is made from a gel-infused memory foam that absorbs and disperses body heat while providing excellent support and comfort. It also has ventilation holes through the foam to allow airflow and breathability.

    So there you have it – hopefully a good night’s sleep is within your grasp! Stay cool, kids.

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