What is the Best Temperature for Sleeping?

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Renske Lok

Dr. Renske Lok

Dr. Renske Lok is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford and a board member of the SLTBR Conference. Her work focuses on circadian rhythms, light, sleep, performance & alertness.

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Ourestimates we spend nearly one-third of our life sleeping—or at least trying to. Unfortunately, one-third of adults report difficulty sleeping, resonating more with the “trying to” part of the statistic. This is…

Last Updated On September 14th, 2021
What is the Best Temperature for Sleeping?

Our National Institute of Health Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source estimates we spend nearly one-third of our life sleeping—or at least trying to. Unfortunately, one-third of adults report difficulty sleeping, resonating more with the “trying to” part of the statistic.

This is worrisome considering regular patterns of sleep deprivation negatively affect our overall health, increasing risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Interestingly enough, sleep specialists have offered a simple solution to adults struggling with sleep—turn down your thermostat. Improper room temperature has proven itself to be an important contributing factor to inadequate sleep.

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In this article, we will discuss the best temperature for sleeping, and explain why and how bedroom temperature is related to our sleep health.

What is the Best Temperature for Sleeping and Why Does it Matter?

To achieve a good night’s sleep, sleep experts recommend setting your bedroom’s temperature anywhere from 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people find 65 degrees to be the best sleeping temperature, but what exactly does a cool bedroom have to do with quality sleep? Allow us to clarify.

It has a lot to do with the human body’s circadian rhythm, sometimes referred to as our internal clock. Circadian rhythm is a biological process that repeats every 24 hours and regulates our sleep-wake cycle to facilitate sleepiness at night and attentiveness during the day. In fact, the term stems from Latin: circa means approximately, dies means day, so rhythms that last with a cycle of approximately a day. Our internal body clock encourages healthy sleep patterns by prompting fluctuations in sleepiness levels, melatonin concentrations, and temperature regulation.

How Does Body Temperature Affect Sleep?

Within a 24-hour time period, your body temperature increases and decreases, decreasing the most before bed. “The body comprises of a heat-producing core, and heat-dissipating shell. At rest, body heat production depends on the activity of organs and the contraction of muscles. Heat dissipation occurs through the skin, and round-shaped parts of the skin, such as fingertips and toes, are especially efficient in heat loss,” says Dr. Renske Lok.

Lok adds, “Heat (re)distribution from the core to extremities occurs through blood transport. While a warm environment facilitates blood vessel dilation, a cold environment stimulates blood vessel constriction. Counterintuitively, wearing gloves or socks may facilitate cooling of the body and therefore a quicker sleep onset.” A drop in body temperature typically facilitates sleepiness and thus, sleep.

Once we have fallen asleep, our core body temperature continues dropping, reaching its lowest level of 1 to 2 degrees below average approximately 2 hours before we wake up. When we wake, it slowly rises. These shifts in temperature are called thermoregulation, a practice imperative to sleep quality. Thermoregulation is our body’s way of maintaining homeostasis—a constant and stable internal environment, encouraging optimal body function.

Recent studies indicate ambient temperature impacts our body’s ability to thermoregulate during sleep. Meaning, a bedroom too cold or too hot can interrupt or prolong sleep, typically having the largest impact during REM sleep. Dr. Lok explains, “During sleep, the brain alternates between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and Non-REM (NREM) sleep. The switch between these states occurs in a rhythm of approximately 90 minutes.”

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is the state of sleep when most dreams occur. It is characterized by increases in breathing and heart rate, and as you might guess, rapid movement of the eyes. During this state of sleep, our bodies have to work especially hard to thermoregulate, so a high ambient temperature will only complicate its abilities to do so, and most-likely cause us to wake.

Recent research by the NIH suggests Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source hotter temperatures have a more profound effect on sleep health than colder temperatures. This is somewhat because it is easier to warm up than cool down. Regardless of the season or climate you live in, adequate sleep and improved health can be achieved by sleeping in a room between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Room Temperature and Health

Keeping your room’s temperature between the above range is crucial to a good night’s sleep. More importantly, a good night’s sleep is key to maintaining physical health and may even improve withstanding health conditions.

In fact, certain NIH studies Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source show some forms of insomnia are associated with a continually elevated core body temperature. This suggests that a possible cause of certain sleep disorders might be thermoregulation, speaking largely to both ambient and body temperatures’ role in the quality of our sleep.

A study published in Oxford Academic Verified Source Oxford Academic Research journal published by Oxford University. View source examined the effect of ambient temperature’s effect on 40 patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The research focused on the patients’ sleep efficiency and alertness soon after waking. The sleepers slept in rooms of 60.8 degrees, 68 degrees, and 75.2 degrees. Researchers found patients slept longer and were more attentive in the morning after sleeping in a room of 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating cooler rooms provide optimal sleep.

Still, the ideal room temperature is usually based on personal preference so finding a comfortable sleep environment may require a series of trial and error, especially if you have a sleep partner.

What if You Can’t Control Your Room Temperature?

Parents, roommates, or sleep partners may make it difficult to adjust room temperature. If this is the case, you can find comfort by making the following adjustments.

If Your Room Is Too Hot

An overly hot room has a larger impact on the quality of your sleep than an overly cold room. As previously mentioned, this is because it’s more difficult to cool down than to heat up. Here are a few suggestions to assist your body in thermoregulation.

  • Dress in lightweight pajamas made from breathable materials like cotton.
  • Sleep with a light sheet or no blanket at all.
  • Avoid silk, wool, or flannel sheets. Opt for breathable bedding like percale cotton or Tencel®.
  • Invest in a fan. While fans do not cool the room, they assist in lowering your core body temperature by moving air across your body.
  • Keep the blinds or curtains drawn during the day to keep heat out of your room.
  • Take a warm bath or shower before bed. Once you are finished bathing, moisture will evaporate from your skin and cool you down, kind of like sweating.
  • Dr. Lok recommends, “Keep constant sleep-wake times, as this will stabilize the circadian system. This will facilitate for the drop in Core Body Temperature, increase in sleepiness and increase in melatonin production to occur at the same time, smoothing the transition from wakefulness to sleep.”

If Your Room Is Too Cold

As your body prepares to fall asleep, the blood vessels beneath your skin dilate, increasing blood flow and allowing heat to escape. This release of heat is how your body’s core temperature drops while asleep. Sometimes, an overly cold environment slows the expansion of blood vessels making your body retain more heat. As counterproductive as it sounds, layering up is a simple way to speed up the broadening of your blood vessels and in turn, quickly cooling your body down.

Best Temperature for Sleeping

  • Put a hot water bottle near your feet. The bottom of our feet is a relatively large surface area, not usually constricted by body hair. Like our hands, the feet’s blood vessels spread out rapidly, and are the first of our body parts to release heat. Warming up your feet will speedily open up your blood vessels to help your body thermoregulate.
  • Wearing socks to bed can also speed up the above process.
  • Use warm bedding. Consider layering up with silk, flannel, or wool.

The Ideal Room Temperature for Infants

Some parents avoid decreasing the temperature of their home because they are worried it will be too cold for their infants. This is a reasonable fear because baby’s struggle to thermoregulate more than adults and typically are not covered with hefty bedding to avoid suffocation.

The good news is, there’s always a middle ground. Most sleep experts recommend keeping your baby in a room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as they are clothed properly in a simple sleeper and light sack or swaddle, they will stay comfortable and safe.

FAQ

Is it better to sleep in the cold or warm?

Sleep experts recommend sleeping in a cool room of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. While asleep, your body thermoregulates. If it is too cold or too warm, thermoregulation may be difficult to accomplish and cause frequent wake time. With that being said, sleeping in the cold is more ideal than the warm because you can easily add layers to sleep comfortably if necessary.

How cold is too cold for sleeping?

As mentioned above, temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees are best for sleeping. Still, creating a comfortable environment is subjective and a couple of degrees above or below this range is perfectly fine. However, anything below 54 degrees or above 75 degrees will most likely interfere with your sleep – though the exact numbers vary by individual.

Why do I produce so much body heat when I sleep?

Even though our body temperature drops while asleep, our skin feels hotter. This is because the blood vessels below our skin dilate and release heat to cool us down. You can alleviate feelings of overheating by adjusting the temperature of your room between 60 and 67 degrees, sleeping in lightweight pajamas and bedding, bathing before bed, or using a fan.

Can you get sick from sleeping in a hot room?

Our body’s internal clock sparks a 1 to 2-degree decline in body temperature. This decrease is gradual and takes place throughout the night. If the room we sleep in is too warm, it may interrupt this decrease and cause us to wake frequently, sacrificing sleep quality. A continual lack of sleep compromises the immune system and can lead to minor sickness.

Is your temperature higher when you first wake up?

Your temperature is typically lower when you first wake up. This is because while you are sleeping, your body temperature drops by 1 to 2 degrees. It only rises once you wake up. Therefore, your body temperature is significantly lower in the morning than in the afternoon and evening.

Conclusion

With so many adults struggling to sleep well, ways to practice good sleep hygiene is becoming an increasingly popular health topic. While some sleeper’s circumstances call for new bedding accessories, a lifestyle change, and sometimes the guidance of a medical professional, some people’s solution is really as simple as turning down the thermostat.

However, sleeping in a cool room may offer slight relief to other frustrating sleep situations as well. If you make up the one-third of adults who find sleeping challenging, switching up your room temperature is at least worth a shot and may prove itself to be a game-changer.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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