How to Sleep Better in Hot Weather, According to Sleep Experts

sleeping better in hot weather

Photo Illustration by Michela Buttignol for Verywell Health; Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • High temperatures can disrupt your sleep, which in turn can harm your overall health.
  • Breathable pajamas and cooling beddings might help keep your body cool at night.
  • A warm shower can actually signal your body to cool off. But if it’s too warm, it may just exacerbate sweating and discomfort in a hot bedroom.

2023 was the hottest year ever recorded, and 2024 is likely to surpass it. Forecasters predict another scorching summer across most of the United States with above-average temperatures.

Studies show that high temperatures make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, which harms the immune system, cardiovascular system, cognitive performance, and mood.

“Sleep is important for a number of areas of our waking success. It allows us to wake up and be refreshed and productive. It matters for our relationships, for how we treat our loved ones, and our health in a number of domains,” Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a sleep scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Verywell.

Throughout the night, the body cycles through different sleep stages. Because your body’s temperature regulation is less effective during certain stages, a hot room might wake you up so that your body can resume thermoregulation, Robbins said.

“That’s why temperature is such a critical component of a healthy night’s sleep,” she added.

Robbins recommends keeping your bedroom temperature between 65 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep, which isn’t always possible without air conditioning or increasing your electricity bills. Here are some other strategies that can also help you stay cool and sleep better in hot weather.

Make Your Sleeping Environment Cooler

Thinking creatively about your sleeping arrangements can help, so try to find the place in your home that is the “coolest and has the most airflow,” Robbins said.

Using shutters or curtains and opening windows during the day can help cool off your room before bedtime. Using a fan can also help improve airflow during hot summer nights.

“You can put ice behind a fan to blow some cooler air so that you at least get into the sleep better,” said John Saito, MD, a board-certified sleep medicine expert in Fountain Valley, California.

Try Breathable Pajamas and Cooling Pillows

Pajamas and beddings made from breathable fabrics like cotton and linen can help keep your body cool, according to Monica Kalra, DO, a primary care physician at Memorial Hermann in Sugar Land, Texas.

Cooling mattress toppers or pillows might also help lower the temperature. “Cooling pillows contain gel overlays which absorb body heat and keep the head and neck cool throughout the night,” Kalra told Verywell in an email.

Putting an ice pack under your pillow isn’t the best option, but you can keep ice on your bedside table to use as needed. Robbins suggested keeping a towel and ice nearby to cool off the hands and the forehead before bed if you’re struggling to fall asleep.

Take a Not Too Warm Shower

While taking a cold shower seems like an obvious way to cool down quickly, studies have shown that hot-water bathing a few hours before bedtime before can make it easier to fall asleep.

However, the water shouldn’t be too hot, said Carl W. Bazil, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.

“A warm shower will send your body into cooling mode, which we know can help promote sleep as your body temperature normally falls during the night,” Bazil told Verywell in an email. “But if it’s too warm, it may just exacerbate sweating and discomfort in an overly warm bedroom. In that case, a mildly cooling shower may actually be better.”

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

It’s not always possible to create the perfect sleep environment, especially in hot weather. Keeping a good bedtime routine is still essential in the summer, as stress and anxiety can reduce sleep quality.

Sleep experts say that general sleep hygiene habits—such as keeping a consistent bedtime and turning off your screens an hour before bed—can help you sleep better, even in hot weather.

“Avoid eating close to bedtime, avoid alcohol, and also adding in time to relax and unwind before bedtime is good for all of us, but especially if you’re a little bit concerned about sleep difficulties due to temperature,” Robbins said.

What This Means For You

With record-breaking temperatures becoming the norm, managing sleep quality is more important than ever. If air conditioning is not an option, open your windows for better air flow, opt for cooling pillows, or put ice behind your fan.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Stephanie Brown

By Stephanie Brown
Brown is a nutrition writer who received her Didactic Program in Dietetics certification from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Previously, she worked as a nutrition educator and culinary instructor in New York City.