The dog days of summer are officially here—and that means your energy bill is probably headed through the roof right about now. According to the United States Department of Energy, 75% of Americans have air conditioners in their homes, and we shell out a whopping $29 billion a year on the power to run them.
One of the most popular times to crank up the AC is at night, because—let’s face it—sleeping in the heat is often unbearable in July and August. How many times have you woken up sweaty in the middle of the night with damp sheets stuck to you and had trouble falling back to sleep? Yeah, us too.
The optimal temperature for sleep, per the National Sleep Foundation, is between 60° and 67°. Keeping your bedroom in this range allows your body to more easily reach its ideal sleepy-time temperature, which is typically one or two degrees lower than your normal body temp. If your bedroom—and therefore your body—are too hot, that can make falling asleep more difficult, and also mess with the quality of your REM sleep.
How to cool down your bedroom without AC
The good news is, you don’t have to blast your AC (and consequently drain your bank account) to stay cool at night. Here are seven ways to cool down a room while using your air conditioner less.
1. Choose cotton sheets
When you store away the heavy comforter for the summer, switch your sheets too. Breathable cotton sheets are a great pick for the warmer months, as they naturally help you sleep cooler. The NSF recommends a thread count of 400 or less for sheets, particularly when it’s hot outside, since a higher thread count traps body heat.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out here that Saatva recently introduced our own line of 100% organic cotton sheets, just in time for the height of summer. Saatva Dreams is made with 300-thread-count organic long-staple cotton in a silky smooth sateen weave.
2. Upgrade your pillow—and pillowcase
Use the summer heat as an impetus to swap out that pillow you’ve held onto for way too long. Look for a breathable pillow (we’ve got one of those too) and pillowcase to avoid waking up sopped in sweat. The Saatva pillow’s 100% organic cotton cover wicks away moisture, and the microdenier fiber inner layer promotes air flow so you sleep cooler.
3. Get naked
One of the easiest ways to chill out at bedtime? Slip out of your pjs and try sleeping in the buff. In addition to making it easier for you to stay cooler, sleeping naked is good for your sex life, skin, and mood. Don’t believe us? Here are seven proven benefits of sleeping naked, backed by science.
Watch this video for tips on sleeping cool:
4. Grow a plant (or two)
Embrace your green thumb and create an indoor garden in your bedroom. Plants go through a process called transpiration, during which their leaves release water into the air. That cools them and their environment. (Think of it as plants sweating.) Plants also improve air quality. A 1989 NASA study found that indoor plants do a really good job at removing organic chemicals from the air. Some of the best bedroom plants include English ivy, peace lily, and Warneckei (also known as Dracaena), all of which were part of the NASA study.
5. Install a ceiling fan
Turning on a ceiling fan instead of your air conditioner is an easy way to cool down a room while saving you a whole lot of money. According to energy provider ConEd, electric fans cost one-tenth the amount to run as AC units. If you must use your air conditioner, do it in tandem with a ceiling fan. The U.S. Department of Energy states that when you use a ceiling fan, you can raise your thermostat by 4° and still feel comfortable. That’s important, because every degree you lower your thermostat raises your energy bill by 6%, according to ConEd.
6. Treat your bedroom like a cave
The best sleep environment is one that is cool and dark—in other words, cave-like. We’ve already covered how feeling cool allows you to drift off more easily. Darkness tells your body that it’s time to power down. Levels of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles) increase as it becomes darker outside, then drop when the sun comes up in the morning. Exposure to indoor light can mess with your melatonin. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, exposure to light in your bedroom curbs the spike of melatonin needed to put you into the ideal sleepy state.
Think light might be the reason why you can’t catch adequate Zzz’s? Consider testing a sleep mask to see if that’s really the case. Also close your blinds or curtains to block out any outdoor light such as street lamps. ConEd reports that 40 percent of unwanted heat comes in through windows, so keeping your blinds, shades, and curtains closed will also help cool down your room.
7. Give your oven and stove a break
If the other rooms in your house are hot, it will make it much harder to cool down your bedroom, especially if the rooms are close to each other. Summer is the perfect time to let your oven and stove take a vacation and for you to head outside and fire up the grill. (Or try one of Martha Stewart’s favorite no-cook summer recipes.) Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences advises using kitchen appliances in the morning or late evening when it’s not so hot outside.
When you just can’t cool down your bedroom
You might end up sleeping with your AC on anyway—and that’s OK. Sometimes, turning on the air conditioner is even good for your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staying indoors in air conditioning is one of the best ways to prevent heat stroke. Your best bet is to use energy-efficient appliances and turn off your air conditioner when you’re not home so that you don’t waste any energy and up your bill unnecessarily.