When the summer heat really sets in, it’s tough to get a good night’s sleep. Here are a few tips to help you find some relief.
By Alan Henry, New York Times
When the temperature rises, it’s tough to get cool enough to fall and stay asleep. But a few bedroom upgrades can make a big difference. The experts at Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products, offered suggestions, and we found some tips for keeping cool without buying a thing.
The Obvious: Buy an Air Conditioner (or a Fan)
Install an air conditioner, if you can. Not everyone can fit a unit in a wall or window, but portable air conditioners don’t need either to function. The downsides are they’re much less efficient than the window and wall-mounted units, and in some cases they don’t work very well because instead of cooling indoor air and radiating heat outdoors, they operate entirely inside. (If you have central air, lucky you! You may move on to read something else.)
Wirecutter has suggestions for window-mounted units and portable ones, as well as tips to fit an air conditioner into a small window. Harry Sawyers, an editor at Wirecutter, said their testing went well beyond cooling: “We’ve also found that the most important thing for most buyers is that they’re quiet, which is especially important in a bedroom.”
Design Your Bed for Cool Comfort
Consider swapping out your cotton or jersey-style sheets for linen or percale. Percale sheets are made of cotton, but they’re known for that crisp, cool feeling when you slide into them. Linen sheets are porous and breathe, so warm air won’t get trapped next to your body while you sleep.
“My personal favorite for hot weather are linen sheets,” said Christine Cyr Clisset, an editor at Wirecutter. “These are super breathable, which helps on muggy days. You can also mix-and-match your sheets. I like using a percale bottom sheet, because it feels smooth and cool, with a linen top sheet that does double duty as a light, airy blanket. This is also a good strategy if you want to invest in linen, but you’re on a budget.”
You could also try a chilling pillow, like this one from Tempur-Pedic, which incorporates water or gel that’s cool when you put your head down. It can work well as you fall asleep, before it heats up to match your body temperature.
Block Out the Light (and by Extension, Heat)
Another way to control the temperature of your bedroom — or any room — in warm weather is to keep the light out during the brightest hours of the day, and then open the curtains to allow built-up heat to dissipate during the cool evening hours. Insulated blackout curtains can keep your room dark and cool in the summer, but also prevent warm air from escaping through windows in the winter.
“Most any window treatment will help a little with reducing the amount of heat in a room, but certain ones work better at this,” Ms. Clisset said. “Generally curtains or shades with a white backing work best. Cellular shades (like our blackout shade recommendation, which does have a white backing) are the best at insulating a room, at both keeping heat from escaping and solar heat from getting in.”
You don’t need blackout cellular shades for this — the same company that makes Wirecutter’s blackout shade recommendation makes a number of other cellular shades. “The U.S. Department of Energy says cellular shades can block out up to 80 percent of solar heat, if installed correctly,” Ms. Clisset said. “Curtains can also work, but again it’s best if they have a white backing.” While Wirecutter’s favorite blackout curtains don’t have a white backing, similar models that do aren’t difficult to find.
Try Some Unorthodox Methods
Finally, if you can’t (or won’t) buy a bunch of stuff to keep your bedroom cool — or if you find yourself picking and choosing which method will work best for you — there are things you can do without spending money at all.
Build a homemade air cooler. Fill a bowl with ice and place it in front of a room fan. The breeze over the slowly melting ice will send chilled water vapor into the air in front of the fan. Combined with the fast-moving air, you’ll get a nice, chilly breeze. Until the ice melts.
Put your sheets in the freezer. This one’s low-tech, but it works surprisingly well if you’re willing to make your bed before you settle in for the night. Pop your sheets — or even just your fitted sheet or top sheet — into a resealable plastic bag and into the freezer. Put them on your bed right before bedtime, and you’ll enjoy a cool start to the night.
Sleep Egyptian style. There isn’t too much evidence that the so-called Egyptian style of sleeping actually dates to the ancient Egyptians, but it is an internet-popular method to stay cool at night. Ditch your blanket or comforter for a top sheet alone, and then wet that top sheet before bed. Wring out the sheet until it’s just slightly damp, but still cool. Then curl up under it and enjoy the cool sheet against your skin while you fall asleep. If waking up to clammy sheets bothers you, this may not be for you.
Fill a water bottle with ice water and take it to bed. Sometimes the oldest methods are the best. Grab a hot water bottle (the silicone kind that you’d normally fill with hot water) and fill it with cold water and ice. Wrap it in a towel or other absorbent cloth, and keep it near your feet while you sleep.
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