Is there a perfect temperature for 'the most comfortable sleep?'
Your bedroom temperature could be dictating how restfully you sleep, and the argument over that number has led to countless bedroom battles. Here’s what experts say is the ideal temperature range to settle the debate.
Studies show 50 percent of couples prefer different temperatures while sleeping. Experts say there is an ideal room temperature for optimum sleep.
Anyone who shares a bedroom is likely familiar with what can sometimes become a bitter battle over the temperature at bedtime. Studies have shown that 50 percent of couples prefer different temperatures while sleeping. Some like it hot while others prefer lower temperatures.
But the debate isn't just a relationship disagreement. Dr. Michelle Drerup, Director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, told AccuWeather temperature can disrupt rest, which can affect health and even cognitive functioning. So exactly what is the ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep?
“For most people, the ideal range is having the thermostat set between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for the most comfortable sleep," Dr. Drerup said, adding that people can vary dramatically within that range so it’s important to figure out what your body prefers. "So 65 (degrees) is kind of the number that’s given. Really anything over 70 (degrees) is too toasty and hot.”
Sleeping too hot or too cold can affect a good night’s rest, but Dr. Drerup said people tend to have more difficulties with the heat. People who sleep in hot environments have been found to have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol the next morning. Researchers also recently concluded that patients sleep so poorly in hospital ICUs partly because the rooms are too warm.
"What happens when we fall asleep is that approximately two hours before bedtime, or typical bedtime, our body temperature starts to drop very slightly. But that drop in temperature triggers our natural endogenous melatonin release which also contributes to sleep," Dr. Drerup told AccuWeather. If your bedroom is hot, it works against this body process.
While sleeping too cold may not affect sleep cycles as much, it can cause your body to kick into high gear to warm itself. As Dr. James Hamblin notes in The Atlantic, "Those who sleep in cold environments, meanwhile, tend to fare better." A study of people with a sleep disorder found that they slept longer in temperatures of 61 degrees versus 75 degrees. The cold-sleepers were also more alert the next morning. If your bedroom temperature is lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold. This can put increased stress on your cardiovascular system as blood vessels constrict and your body shivers to warm itself.
Getting the temperature right plays more of a role in restful, rejuvenating sleep than people may think. Thermo-regulation is important for staying in the restorative, slow-wave sleep stage. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) refers to phase 3 sleep, which is the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
“Our brain activity is very slow during that time, that’s when a lot of physical restoration is occurring,” Dr. Drerup explained. “Higher temperatures can cause decreased slow-wave sleep and poor quality sleep.”
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
The U.S. government, including several presidents, has even weighed in on the ideal temperature at home, although the guideline was based on money, not health. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends people should set their thermostats to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and turned lower while sleeping. It was originally suggested by President Richard Nixon during an oil shortage
in 1974. Three years later, President Jimmy Carter suggested 65 degrees in daytime and 55 at night and ordered the White House thermostat lowered accordingly. He also called on Americans to turn down their thermostats at home “to 65 degrees in the daytime and lower at night” to help with what he called an energy “crisis” caused by unusually cold temperatures that winter. The change was estimated to have saved around 300,000 gallons of oil daily. President Ronald Reagan called it an “unnecessary regulatory burden” and got rid of it in 1981.
In 2019, the federal program Energy Star made a stir when it recommended that the optimal thermostat temperature for sleeping was 82 degrees F at night. A reporter’s tweet with the report’s finding, which also argued for consumers to keep their thermostats at 78 F when they’re home and 85 F when they’re at work, drew many thousands of unhappy responses.
Experts told AccuWeather that the best way to save money on your heating bill is to keep your home's temperature near outside temperatures. However, during the winter months, this might not be practical. Still, if you can make your indoor temperature about 25 degrees warmer than outside, then you will save money and the house will remain heated. If the temperature is 30 degrees (or lower) outside, turn your thermostat up to at least 60 degrees and you will notice the difference.
Dr. Drerup advises couples who disagree over the temperature while sleeping to keep the room on the cooler side. Think of your bedroom as your cave. It should be cool, dark and quiet, but have extra blankets handy. This can be especially helpful for those who disagree on the ideal temperature.
“I can take off a layer right and then if I have a bed partner, even if the house is too cold for me, I can put on another layer of a blanket or comforter to stay warm," she explained.
Several gadgets can also help people with different ideal temperatures regulate their personal space, including heated mattresses, portable air coolers or space heaters and even specially designed hot and cold comforters.
So turn down your thermostat to something the lowest temperature the person who prefers warmth can handle and keep extra blankets handy. It's healthier, and you're saving money and burning less energy.
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