Laying in bed when it is 90 degrees out with no air conditioning is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done. I realized this the other night when I simply could not sleep because it was so hot. I laid in bed for hours, trying to get to sleep, thinking about the 9 AM class awaiting me in the morning. Trying to find a cool position to stay in was difficult.
This drove me to wonder what the perfect sleeping temperature is. In my mind, this depends on the person, but there must be a temperature range that is best for sleeping. Craig Heller, PhD, states the human body has an internal thermostat. When we go to sleep, our brain tries to achieve a lower body temperature. If it is too hot or too cold, our bodies have trouble getting to the lower temperature, making it hard to sleep. This means that if the room is too hot it is very difficult for the body to get to the lower body temperature it is attempting to reach. Sleeping in an extremely cold room would be uncomfortable, but it would be easier for the body to get to the lower body temperature.
REM Sleep is the period of sleep in which the body temperature gradually becomes what it on the outside. Thus, hot temperatures make people wake up during REM sleep. REM normally accounts for 20-25% of sleep, which is a great portion of your night. Theoretically, with hot temperatures, you would be getting, for example, 6 hours of sleep instead of 8. I know for me this is a drastic difference and would make me grumpy, sluggish and unproductive. The most important aspect that allows one to get to sleep is keeping your head cool with pillows that are not suffocating.
So what is the best way to fight the heat? It is simple to just say “Oh turn the thermostat down.” In a dorm room setting, with no air conditioning, this is not a plausible solution. One of the most overlooked ideas which may help sleep is staying hydrated throughout the day. One of the causes of poor rest is dehydration. Also, you could consider taking a hot shower before going to bed. This would raise body temperature forcing your body to cool down and your brain to kick into “sleep mode”.
For me, 65-70 degrees would be the perfect temperature for me to sleep in. It is not too hot and not too cold, and it is just cold enough where I can still be under a heavy blanket. For now though, that is not reasonable, so I am going to have to try out some different methods to enable me to fall asleep quicker. I don’t want the winter to come, but I also need sleep, so something needs to give.