photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
For those of us without air conditioning, falling asleep on a steamy, sultry summer night becomes its own special project. Whether you live an A/C-free existence or are enjoying the rustic comfort of an Airbnb sans air conditioning, knowing how to cool down your body as much as possible will help you achieve your most restful snooze. Plus, it’s just more comfortable.
We spoke to some experts on how to prep your skin, bedroom, and bed itself to cultivate a cool sleep even on a hot summer night. Keep these pre-bed hacks handy next time you find yourself A/C-less.
Focus on Your Bed
The recommended temperature for optimal sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and cofounder of sleep tech company Reverie, says the obvious solution to obtaining the ideal sleep temperature is air conditioning, but for those who do not have central air flow all hope is not lost.
“When temperature-proofing your sleep, one of the primary places to focus is your own bed,” he says. “The temperature your bed retains and transmits back to you can have a great impact on your body temperature and, in turn, your sleep quality.” The materials matter the most: This not only includes the sheets, but mattress and pillows, too.
Make the Most of Your Mattress
Adam Tishman, cofounder of sleep company Helix, notes that “certain materials—like memory foam—sleep hot, and that’s not cool for your sleep quality.” He adds that it isn’t just dense materials that could be disrupting your sleep: Most mattresses aren’t suited specifically to your height, weight, or even your preferred sleep position.
“Custom mattress brands, like Helix, use customer preferences to tailor the mattress to them (and not the other way around), ensuring better sleep all year round,” he explains. For the coolest sleeping experience, Rawls-Meehan maintains that all-natural latex is the best choice. “Latex comfort layers are made with pinholes that allow air circulation and will keep you cool and dry,” he says. Some mattresses are also made with individual latex cells for even more air circulation within the mattress itself.
Rawls-Meehan suggests tossing the blanket off of your bed and instead employing your top sheet as a light, cool cover. “Avoid hot materials like flannel or satin. Instead, opt for breathable cotton or heat-wicking linen,” he says. “Or better yet, take advantage of some of the new fabric technologies specifically designed to keep you cool when the heat is on.”
Proper Pillow Paraphernalia
To keep a cool head, Rawls-Meehan recommends choosing a synthetic down pillow with a cotton pillowcase. “It's a good, affordable way to stay cool because cotton is breathable, and synthetic fill doesn’t retain heat,” he says. Surprisingly, wool is another good choice, as it regulates temperature, helping you feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter, he notes.
Another lesser known choice is buckwheat hulls, which are wonderful for maintaining a cool temperature. “Newer options offer cool-to-the-touch technologies to support cooler temperatures all night long,” he says.
Cue the Cotton
For sleepwear as well as sheets, Tishman recommends choosing cotton because it’s breathable and promotes better airflow. “The higher the thread count, the hotter it is—so there’s no shame in breaking out your old, threadbare sheets for the summer,” he says. “When you’re picking PJs, cotton’s also best—choose something lightweight and loose so you’re comfortable and sweat isn’t sticking to your skin (or your mattress).” Set aside your flannel and wool for the season, and choose a crisp cotton pajama like LAKE’s Shore Long-Short Set for a nautical vibe.
Catch a Cold Shower
A nighttime shower in the summer is great because you’ll help bring down your core temperature while climbing under the covers clean and refreshed. Dr. Neal Schultz, NYC dermatologist and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz, says cold showers are no problem at all [for your skin]. He says that if you want to cool off, “go for the cold, but only after regular warm shower or bath because if you try to get clean with soap and only cold water, you will feel like there's a residue on your skin.”
Lose the Lights
Lights create heat, notes Rawls-Meehan. He says to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time, (which was originally developed to save money and energy), and save your energy by keeping the lights off. You’ll sleep better, and you won’t sweat your utility bill.