There are many great things about summer, but trying to sleep when it’s hot and sticky isn’t one of them. Not only is it hard to fall asleep when you’re too warm, but tossing and turning to find a comfortable position only makes things worse. Cranking the air conditioning is certainly a solution, but running the AC all day and all night isn’t energy efficient and can send your power bills skyrocketing — that is, if you even have an AC.
So how can you balance keeping your room at the ideal temperature for sleep while not driving up the bills? With a few DIY hacks, you can sleep cool and save every night … all you need are a few affordable sleep remedies.
The best way to keep your room cool is to prevent it from getting hot in the first place, and the best way to do that is to close your curtains. Keeping the curtains, blinds, and shutters closed blocks the sun, and can make a measurable difference in the temperature of the room — sometimes by as much as 20 degrees or more. The effect is even stronger if you use blackout curtains, which effectively block up to 99 percent of the light from coming in. Blackout curtains can be expensive, but you can DIY your own by adding a liner to the back of your existing curtains. Look for premade liners that you can clip on the back of your curtains, or sew on some thick cotton fabric. Not only will you sleep cooler, but you will sleep better when you block out the light.
If you’re having trouble sleeping when it’s hot, the reason might be your bedding. Satin and flannel sheets are probably delightful during the colder months, but in the summer, stick to breathable, cooler fabrics like bamboo or organic cotton. They wick away sweat and stay cooler even on the hottest nights. You can increase their cooling abilities and give yourself an immediate blast of chill when you climb into bed, by freezing your top sheet and pillow cases before bed. Place everything in a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so before bed.
Another option is to try a cooling method that traces back to the ancient Egyptians. Before bed, dampen your top sheet with cold water. It only needs to be damp, not soaking. Place the cool damp sheet over you, preferably with a breeze or fan blowing directly on it. The combination of the damp sheet and the air will help you cool down and drift off to dreamland. Just be sure to cover your mattress with a towel to keep it from getting wet.
Speaking of mattresses, some types, like memory foam, tend to sleep hotter than others in general and might be uncomfortable on super hot nights. Although many newer memory foam mattress models are designed with technology and materials to sleep cooler, if you have an older mattress or you still feel hot, adding a cooling mattress topper can help. Typically made with gels that increase comfort and reduce bed temperature, a mattress topper will run you a few hundred dollars, but it still costs less than high electric bills over time.
In the swampy marshlands of the deep south, keeping cool is an art form — and some of the techniques for staying cool are actually rather genius. If you don’t have an air conditioner, try making your own version of a “swamp cooler” in your bedroom. To make one, place a large bowl or roasting pan full of ice in front of a fan. As the air travels over the ice, it cools down, and the moisture helps lower the temperature. Another option is to place a damp sheet or towel in front of an open window when a breeze is coming in. The same idea applies: The moisture lowers the temperature, keeping you comfortable.
Finally, if all else fails, consider investing in a small air conditioner for your bedroom. Running an energy efficient window air conditioner only when you need it is more cost-effective than a central air conditioning system that cools the whole house. Many of the newest models are Energy Star certified, and a small unit is perfectly capable of cooling down a bedroom. Set the thermostat to about 70 degrees, and use an economy or automatic mode that will turn the unit off when your room is cool. You shouldn’t see a huge spike in your electric bill, and you’ll get plenty of rest even when the temperature soars.