As many of us already know -- whether scientifically or anecdotally -- an overly warm bedroom can make it nearly impossible to fall and stay asleep. Robinson Meyer describes the impact on sleep and health in his article “Climate Change Is Already Making Americans Sleep Worse” for The Atlantic.
Meyer writes that “unusually warm nights are a public-health hazard” because of the ways in which they impact sleep. Robinson Meyer notes that “sleep is regulated pretty heavily by our body temperature—and especially by our core body temperature.” Because core body temperature lowers as the body prepares for sleep, high ambient temperatures are antithetical to quality sleep. This is a necessary step for properly maintaining the Circadian Rhythm. For those who do not have or cannot afford air conditioning, keeping cool at night can be a challenge. Follow below for a few tips on how to sleep through hot nights without air conditioning.
Who Uses Air Conditioning to Keep Cool?
Unfortunately, many people around the globe -- even in hot climates -- do not have access to air conditioning. Others do not have the financial means to keep an A/C unit running through the night. In fact -- writes Franklin Schneider in an article for The Guardian -- “in Europe, fewer than 5% of households have air conditioning...and even in hot regions like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, only 8% of households have it.” In Australia, less than twenty percent of residents use air conditioning. The country has a population of nearly 25.5 million people. However -- according to a brief by Blue NRG -- only “4.6 million Australians use at least one air conditioning unit.”
David Montgomery writes in his article “8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning” for Bloomberg that the most American households do have units. Montgomery writes that “wealthier households are more likely to have [air conditioning]." However, "even among low-income households, more than 75 percent have some form of A/C.” However, just because these homes come equipped with air conditioning, does not mean residents use them. David Montgomery notes that “American homes are spending more energy on air conditioning and less on heating than they used to.”
Our Top 3 Tips: How to Sleep through Hot Nights Without Air Conditioning
#1 Add a Few Houseplants to Your Bedroom
The article “Here Are 6 Plants That Will Help Keep Your House Naturally Cool” for Pickler & Ben quotes expert Dr. Leonard Perry. Perry notes that “plants cool by the process of ‘transpiration,’ releasing moisture into the air.” Dr. Perry notes that “proper use of plants could decrease air temperature in an office by as much as ten degrees.” Houseplants may also decrease the concentration of VOCs in indoor air due to the clarifying, purifying capabilities of their root systems. The Pickler & Ben article suggests choosing a few aloe vera plants. This is because they are “effective at cooling the air temperature and removing formaldehyde from the air.” The House Beautiful article “These 5 houseplants will help keep your home cool in a heatwave” recommends a few other plants for natural cooling. House Beautiful suggests full foliage plants like the rubber ficus. The rubber ficus “improves the humidity in a room” which can “have a cooling effect.” The article explains that the “more foliage a plant has, the more moisture it will release back into the air." This process effectively cools the space.
#2 Install Solar Shades or Blackout Curtains
Installing heavy curtains or insulated shades might not immediately spring to mind when one is hoping to cool down a room. However, blocking out sun during the day can make the room cooler during the evening. Better insulating a space will also prevent hot air from seeping in and cool air from flowing out. In an article for The Strategist, Louis Cheslaw writes that “adding shades to your window...can have a massive impact” on temperature. While most insulated drapes or blackout curtains will do, Cheslaw -- and experts he interviewed for the article -- recommend solar shades. Solar shades -- writes Cheslaw, quoting interior designer Becky Shea -- “‘are an incredible way to keep the temperatures in your apartment cool during warmer months.’” This is because solar shades “reflect the sun’s heat and glare, but are still transparent so you can see out of your window.’” Unfortunately, solar shades can be expensive. If they are not an option, cheap blackout curtains will also help to “filter the sun out and keep the room cool.”
#3 Swap Out Your Sheets
In their article “15 Brilliant Ways To Keep Your Home Cool” for The Huffington Post, Samantha Toscano and Suzy Strutner recommend replacing bedsheets. The pair writes that “not only does seasonally switching your bedding freshen up a room, but it’s also a great way to keep cool.” Strutner and Toscano suggest removing “flannel sheets and fleece blankets” in favor of lighter, natural fabrics. In their article “The Best Cooling Sheets” for The Strategist, Karen Iorio Adelson and Hilary Reid explain the necessity of cooling sheets. For background on how the importance of a lower body temperature for quality sleep, Adelson and Reid interviewed Terry Cralle -- a clinical sleep educator. Cralle explains in the article that “the ideal temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees.”
Unfortunately, a 65 degree Fahrenheit bedroom is nearly impossible -- not to mention expensive -- in the hotter months of the year. As such -- notes Cralle -- “sleeping with cooling, breathable, and moisture-wicking sheets can be a plus and a significant contributor to a good night’s sleep.” Tencel sheets are a great option. This is because -- according to an article published by The Sleep Foundation -- “Tencel sheets help wick moisture away from your body." This effect allows sleepers to "stay cool overnight.” Replacing overly warm or insulating pillowcases is also an excellent idea for keeping cool.
A Few Bonus Tips
Other ways of improving sleep by making your bedroom cool without A/C are outlined in Kristen Rogers’ recent article for CNN Health. Rogers suggests “staying hydrated,” “taking a cold shower or bath” before bed and placing “cold washrags on your neck or wrists.” She also recommends moving your mattress downstairs on exceptionally hot nights and closing the doors to unused rooms. One might also consider replacing bulbs that burn hot -- like incandescents and halogens -- for LED bulbs.