What’s the Best Temperature for Sleep?
Temperature is inextricably tied to sleep — both our body temperature and the temperature of our sleep environment can have a profound effect on our ability to get an undisturbed, good quality sleep.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at:
- what science says is the ideal temperature range for sleep environment
- what causes our body’s natural temperature fluctuations
- how to maintain the right room temperature for optimum sleep
What Science Says About Sleep Temperature
Maintaining an ideal sleep environment temperature is a part of good sleep hygiene.
While opinions do vary somewhat, with various experts stating ranges between 60-72℉ (15.5-22.2℃) as the optimal, most experts, including the National Sleep Foundation, recommend maintaining a temperature between 60-67℉ (15.5-19.4℃) for adults.
The reason why this temperature range has been proven to be the most suitable for good sleep has to do with our circadian rhythm and the changes the body goes through during the sleep cycle.
Body Temperature and the Sleep Cycle
Your body temperature naturally fluctuates up and down throughout a 24 hour period and is tied to our circadian rhythm.
The body’s temperature drops around bedtime and continues to drop through the night, reaching its lowest point before dawn, typically around 5 a.m., before rising again as we wake.
The reason why scientists have settled on the “ideal” range is that temperatures that are warmer or cooler can interfere with the body’s thermostatic regulation by preventing it from bringing its internal temperature to the right level for comfortable sleep.
Impeding the body’s natural temperature regulation can disrupt the sleep cycle. If the ambient temperature is too hot or too cold, the body can struggle to achieve its ideal set point for sleep.
The body’s internal temperature drops during non-REM sleep and reaches its lowest point during REM sleep.
It is during REM sleep that the body loses some of its ability to regulate temperature. Hence, it is easy to see how sleeping in a room that is too warm or too cold can disrupt the normal sleep cycle.
If the body is unable to lower its internal temperature sufficiently due to a hot environment, or if a too-cold environment causes body temperature to drop too much; this can cause disturbed, fragmented sleep and prevent the natural cycling through the different stages of sleep.
How Air Temperature Affects Sleep
An environment that is too warm can cause trouble getting to sleep — after all, a rise in body temperature is associated with wakefulness.
If the body is unable to reach its optimal sleep temperature, then the quality of that sleep will be diminished — you may experience disruption and may not benefit from REM sleep.
Cold affects sleep more than warmth, as this study from 2012 found. Being too cold will not necessarily affect your sleep cycle, but it does make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Though if your environment is too cold while you are sleeping, this can cause your body to alter its response, disrupting the regular sleep pattern.
How Getting Warm Before Bed Can Help You Cool Down
There is a bit of a paradox when it comes to body temperature and sleep. Getting warm before bed can actually help you cool down as you sleep.
It’s well known that getting warm and cozy helps promote relaxation, but say you have a nice warm bath before bed; it’s not actually the fact that you feel warm that helps you sleep.
What actually happens is you are drawing heat from the core of your body to the surface. Heat radiates out through your skin, and especially the hands and feet.
By drawing the heat to the surface, the body can dissipate it faster and reach the ideal internal temperature for sleep.
What Is the Ideal Sleep Temperature by Age?
While the optimal temperature range for humans when it comes to sleep is not large, there are small but distinct differences in the ideal temperatures for babies and children, adults, and the elderly.
|Age Group||Recommended Sleep Temperature|
|Babies & Young Children||65-70℉ (18.3-21.1℃|
Babies & Young Children
Babies and very young children have a slightly higher ideal temperature range than both adults and the elderly, at 65-70℉ (18.3-21.1℃).
Adults will generally sleep best in the slightly cooler range of 60-67℉ (15.5-19.4℃).
Like babies and young children, elderly adults have a slightly higher ideal temperature range of 66-70℉ (18.9-21.1℃).
Causes of Overheating and Night Sweats
A common problem for many people is overheating at night. Some people naturally “run hot” compared to others, which can extend to “sleeping hot” too. For many hot sleepers, night sweats can be a real problem.
It’s not always just down to the individual person, though. Overheating at night can be a result of many factors, including environmental.
Living in areas with a hot or humid climate, inadequate bedroom ventilation, the type of mattress, among other factors, are all things that can contribute to disrupted sleep for hot sleepers.
Sometimes, however, sleeping hot can be caused by an underlying condition that may need treatment, especially if accompanied by night sweats.
If you find yourself consistently uncomfortably warm at night, it could be caused by:
1. Bad General Health
Obesity, inactivity, and lack of general fitness can cause elevated body temperature, thanks to carrying excess body fat and the strain that being overweight and unfit can put on the body.
This extends to the respiratory system — being overweight is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea, which results in periods where breathing is obstructed or stops altogether, resulting in frequent disruptions to sleep.
Sleep apnea sufferers are also three times more likely to sweat during the night than non-sufferers.
Alternatively, an otherwise fit and healthy person may suffer temporarily from being too hot or cold at night, thanks to illness.
Anyone who’s suffered a routine sickness like a cold that’s accompanied by a fever, or even full-blown flu, knows all too well the disrupted sleep that comes from the roller coaster ride of hot fever, sweating, and chills.
Generally, run-of-the-mill illnesses result in temporary sleep disruption. The body can naturally regulate its temperature again once it has fought off the sickness.
Still, if overheating and night sweats are persistent or accompanied by other symptoms, it might pay to see a doctor, especially if sweating is consistently accompanied by a high temperature, localized pain, coughing, diarrhea, or anything else that is out of the ordinary and concerning.
3. Medications and Supplements
Sometimes it can be the medications people take for an already known condition or everyday supplements that can cause night sweats and overheat.
Medications such as antidepressants, drugs for diabetes, hormone blockers, and supplements like fat burners can all cause unwanted sweating and sleep disruption.
4. Hormone Imbalances
Conditions that affect hormone levels can have the unwanted effect of night sweats.
Menopause in women can cause hot flashes due to hormone changes, which affect both the temperature regulating abilities of the hypothalamus and thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism.
This can affect both sexes and result in hormone imbalances, night sweats, and disturbed sleep.
What’s the Best Type of Mattress for Maintaining the Ideal Sleeping Temperature?
While the right mattress for any given person is a purely subjective thing, certain types of mattresses are generally better than others for anyone who sleeps hot or lives in a very hot or humid climate.
Breathability is a big factor when it comes to maintaining coolness. Probably the biggest determinant of the breathability of a mattress is the openness of its construction.
Accordingly, innerspring and hybrid mattresses are good bets with their spring layers that are open and allow plenty of airflow.
What To Look For in a Mattress?
Look for mattresses that use natural fibers and materials in the comfort layers. For example, cotton makes for a breathable cover, and wool is naturally temperature neutral and moisture-wicking.
Be wary of all-foam mattresses, especially memory foam. Traditional memory has a reputation for sleeping hot, thanks to its density and viscoelastic properties that means it softens by absorbing heat, which it retains.
Heat build-up can be a real problem when sleeping on memory foam. Still, new generation foams are increasingly being used that attempt to counteract the heat build-up of traditional memory foam.
For example, open-cell foams which have a more airflow-friendly cell structure that allows heat to dissipate easier, and foams that are coated or infused with cooling gel or particles of copper or graphite, which are excellent conductors of heat, drawing it away from the body and allowing it to dissipate.
Choosing the right mattress to suit both you and your local climate and sleeping environment is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a comfortable sleeping temperature.
Both the type of mattress and the materials it is constructed from are going to have a big effect. Read our ultimate guide on how to choose a mattress for more detailed information.
Tips for Maintaining an Ideal Sleeping Temperature
1. In Summer
- If you use air conditioning, set the thermostat to a temperature in the 60-67℉ range that is comfortable for you.
- Close windows, blinds, and curtains, especially in the late afternoon/early evening, to prevent heat build-up through windows.
- Use a fan or provide a path for airflow by opening doors and windows.
- Sleep in the lower levels of your home — remember, heat rises.
- Use lightweight, breathable sheets.
- Wear light, breathable clothing or pajamas (or sleep naked).
- Use a mattress or mattress topper with cooling properties.
2. In Winter
- Set the thermostat for slightly warmer than you would in summer to account for natural temperature drops during the night.
- Use extra blankets and wear layers. You may run the risk of overheating, but it is easy to maintain a comfortable temperature by shedding blankets or layers of clothing.
- Wear socks, or even gloves if you wish. The body loses heat via the extremities — this is accelerated at night as the body naturally starts to lower its temperature.
- Warm-up internally by consuming a warm beverage before bed. Certain types of herbal teas can also help to promote sleep.
While a cooler room helps the body reach its ideal internal temperature or sleep sooner, a room that is too cold will have the opposite effect — which is why maintaining a comfortable level of warmth in winter will help you fall asleep faster than if you’re uncomfortably cold.
Being at the right temperature at night is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure a refreshing, uninterrupted sleep. And unless you are affected by a medical condition or other factors out of your control, achieving this is relatively easy.
It may seem counterintuitive that cooler temperatures actually promote better sleep, but the body’s natural functioning throughout the sleep cycle proves this to be true.
We’ve offered some fairly common-sense tips here for ensuring you are sleeping at the right temperature, and one of the things that can have the biggest effect on your sleeping temperature is your mattress.
There are plenty of models for hot sleepers to choose from, and you can check out all our mattress reviews here.