Keeping your body cool is key to a good night’s sleep. But once summer’s warm, sticky nights roll around, it can be tougher to stay comfortable without turning the AC up to full blast.
Which, of course, isn’t exactly great for the planet. (Or for your energy bill.) Air conditioners emit hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a type of greenhouse gas that’s thousands of times more potent at absorbing heat than carbon dioxide.
Air conditioners emit…a type of greenhouse gas that’s thousands of times more potent at absorbing heat than carbon dioxide.
And though you might not think turning the temperature down a few degrees while you sleep could possibly have that big of an effect on the planet as a whole, well, think again. Global emissions from HFCs spiked by 54% between 2007 and 2012 alone, according to findings published last year. And a lot of that increase, scientists say, is likely due to the greater use of air conditioners.
In other words? By finding ways to snooze cool without the AC, you can actually fight climate change while you sleep.
There aren’t any official numbers on how much energy could be saved if everyone in the country turned off their air conditioner at night—or even ditched the AC altogether. But you can find out how much you’d reduce your carbon emissions with the EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator. (Go ahead, give it a try. We’ll wait right here.)
Sleeping Comfortably Without the AC
So, yeah. You’re probably convinced that skipping the air conditioner overnight is the greenest way to go. But can you actually do it without tossing and turning all night—and waking up gross and sweaty in the morning?
Absolutely. After all, people have found a way to sleep on warm summer nights since, well, the beginning of time. And with a little bit of effort, so can you. Here’s how.
1. Take stay-cool steps during the day.
You know how long it takes to cool down the inside of your car after it’s been baking in the sun all day? It’s no different with your living space. If it’s been heating up all day long, it’ll be tough to cool it down quickly once you’re ready for bed.
So be proactive about keeping your space from getting too warm in the first place. When you leave for work in the morning, close all the windows and shades to keep everything as dark and cool as possible.
When you leave for work in the morning, close all the windows and shades to keep everything as dark and cool as possible.
When you get home, open all the windows in the evening to make sure you’re getting as much cross-ventilation as possible. Ideally, open two windows that are directly across from each other so air can breeze in one and out the other.
What if all your windows are on the same side of your home or apartment? You should still open them to let as much air in as possible, but you won’t get as much of a cooling breeze. In that case, position a fan to blow air out the window. It might sound off, but it’ll actually help suck some of the warm, indoor air out while drawing cooler, outdoor air in.
Another thing to remember? Try to minimize your use of heat-generating appliances. For instance, instead of roasting or sautéing vegetables in the oven or stove for dinner, make a no-cook salad instead. Because turning on a 400-degree box is the last thing you want when you’re trying to stay cool.
2. Make your bed right.
When it comes to sleeping comfortably without air conditioning, the right bedding can make all the difference. Synthetic sheets and blankets, like those made from polyester, only serve to trap heat and make you warmer. Heavier natural fibers, like flannel or wool, won’t do you much good this time of year either.
Instead, use breathable bedding made from materials like linen and cotton. If you opt for cotton, go for lighter sheets that feel cooler on your skin, like percale or sateen.
Also, take a look at your mattress protector. Liners made with synthetic materials, like plastic, are tops at trapping heat. Seek out a breathable cotton one that wicks away excess moisture instead but still keeps your bed clean.
3. Take a cool shower before bed.
Your body’s core temperature naturally starts to dip as it gets closer to bedtime. But you can help it along even more by taking a lukewarm shower and going to bed with damp hair. With extra moisture on your skin and scalp, you’ll feel cooler.
Finally, keep the cool vibes going by placing a fan with a big bowl of ice water next to your bed. The ice water will cool the air that the fan blows over to you—so you’ll stay more comfortable all night long without having to over-do the air conditioning.
4. Invest in a Quality Mattress
Mattresses can be heat traps. Why? There are a few factors to consider but the most prominent is the quality of the foam. Lower quality foam can restrict airflow, meaning your natural body heat gets trapped at the surface where you sleep.
Sleeping hot can lead to tossing and turning, disrupting your body’s sleep cycle.
The best mattresses will use various tools to help you sleep cool, such gel-infused or plant-based foams.
Luckily, most major brand names work to stop their mattresses from sleeping hot. Newer brands, which adopt the bed in a box model, offer sleep trials so you can try the bed, make sure it doesn’t add unwanted degrees to your nightly rest, and return it if it’s unsatisfactory.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.