Don’t let a hot summer night ruin your sleep.
It’s official – the chill of winter is just a memory and we can emerge from our warm, stuffy burrows to sniff the air and greet the sun. Although summer brings an invigorating feeling of freedom from bundling up in woolly layers and hogging the heater, clammy summer nights frequently impair effective sleep. Here’s how to be a cool cat in a bedroom that lowers your temperature, and increases all-important rest time.
Love your linen
Bedlinen has a significant effect on sleep quality. In hot weather, the prime factors are breathability, and moisture-wicking, the ability of fabric to draw moisture from skin to outer layers of clothing or release it into the air. Natural fabrics are more effective at this than blends containing polyester or other synthetics. Cotton and linen are superb for breathability, and bamboo has superior moisture-wicking abilities.
It’s been proven that a cool bedroom, around 18 to 20°C, promotes restful sleep, even in winter. A well-ventilated room is essential to prevent a stuffy atmosphere that gets warmer during the night. Without resorting to power-hungry air-con, try opening windows to take advantage of lower night temperatures and fresh air.
Tip: If bedroom windows are exposed to full sun during the day, keep them closed and curtains and blinds drawn to stop heat build-up. Open them when the sun goes down and temperatures drop.
Green your space
Indoor plants are useful for reasons other than their charm. Some plants have a positive effect on air quality, removing toxins and increasing oxygen and moisture content. The snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is one of only a few plants that release oxygen into the air at night; it’s the perfect plant to have in your bedroom as you sleep.
Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), also known as butterfly or golden cane palm, is a natural humidifier, ideal for an arid climate with hot dry air. Also consider placing therapeutic plants like lavender and jasmine within two square metres of your sleeping zone.
Did you know? In India, vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) grass roots are woven into window blinds and curtains. They are sprinkled with water and become a natural coolant when hot air passes through them. Sleeping nets are sometimes wrung out in vetiver water and draped over beds and windows for cooling, fragrant sleep. Vetiver grass plants are available from some organic herb farms and nurseries.
Lower the lights
All lights, including light from our technology, exude some heat, so keep reading lights low and turn off other appliances in the room, especially in a small bedroom. Low-wattage lighting in the cool blue spectrum is visually comfortable for bedrooms, so change globes if yours are bright and warm.
Tip: Candlelight may provide enough light to get ready for bed, though not for reading. A few tealights emit a negligible amount of heat – you’d need about 30 burning for several hours before any difference was noticed.
Colour for cool
Practise chromatherapy, the use of colour to create changes in mood. It’s well known that we react to different colours in unique ways. Colour consultant Jacquelene Symond says colour is one of the strongest stimuli we receive and one of the first things we see in any design, no matter how subtle. 'Keep in mind the primary use of your space before choosing a colour palette,' Symond says. 'Fire-engine red, for example, can be arousing and exciting, while light blue can be cooling and relaxing', paler blues heading towards grey are particularly soothing.
Don’t overlook the soothing, cooling response that green evokes. Greens are having a moment, appearing in Dulux’s latest colour trend predictions. Just in time for summer, the coolest green ever, eau de nil, is getting a look-in and is a great shade to introduce to your summer bedroom. Put away the warm-toned throws and cushions and get some green going. Other cool green options are frosty mint, pale and chalky sage or clean and intense emerald.
Did you know? Bedbugs are attracted to red and black sheets but avoid green ones!
White is the classic cooler. Our summer clothes tend towards pale and floaty, so continue this tactic in the bedroom. A complete white-out may verge on sterile, so perk it up with touches of crisp, fresh accent colours – the beauty of white is its unmatched ability to fraternise with so many colours.
Sleepers have strong opinions about what to wear to bed, and a survey by mattress company Ergoflex showed only 18 per cent of Australians sleep au naturel. With nothing between you and the sheets, your body temperature regulates itself naturally.
If nocturnal nudity isn’t for you, wear night attire that helps keep you cool. Lightweight cotton is breathable, but not as effective at wicking moisture away from the skin as bamboo and silk. Loose nightwear is good, but not loose enough to wake you up in a tangle.
Go to the net
A bedroom ventilated with unscreened open windows is an invitation to critters that whine and flap, and worse, bite. Mozzie nets allow sleepers to wear as little as they like – sometimes a sheet is too much and all that hot skin attracts unwanted attention from insects. Hang ready-made nets from a ceiling hook, or consider building a timber frame or cane hoop over the bed to drape several metres of muslin or netting. Nets allow you to throw open the windows, and they look breezy and summery.
Join the fan club
Modern fans are becoming more and more efficient – quiet, stylish and brilliant at moving air around. Positioned where a sleeping body enjoys maximum cooling air movement, a fan is a good investment in comfort. A cheaper option is a small standing bedside fan – there are some very cute ones out there, and they add a hint of retro to decor.
Tip: Direct a fan at damp muslin fabric laid over you as you sleep – it’s deliciously cool!
Picture yourself cool
It’s all in the mind, but images can create sensations of heat or cold in our bodies. Try staring at a picture of leaping flames or a bushfire and see how it makes you feel. Hang water-themed artwork that brings to mind cool ocean depths, translucent glaciers or tranquil lakes. Audio tracks of rain, surf and waterfalls are another way of harnessing water’s cooling influence.
Cut the clutter
Mess causes stress, stress releases chemicals that make you feel hot, and that in turn affects comfortable sleep. A few minutes spent tidying the bedroom, putting away clothes and clearing unnecessary items from bedside tables helps you feel cool, calm and collected come bedtime. You may not want to go as far as this scantily furnished bedroom, but declutter to your personal idea of ‘tidy’.
Splash ’n' sleep
One of the most pleasant ways to hit the sheets with cool skin is a two-minute, just-tepid shower immediately before bedtime. Give extra attention to feet and give them a cold swoosh before you dry off.
Tip: Finish your shower with an after-bath body mist of lightly perfumed cologne that has been chilling in the fridge – citrus, green tea or rose are calming and cooling.
Our bodies lose moisture during hot nights and waking up parched and having to get out of bed for water steals precious sleep time. Instead of drinking lots just before bed, sip water continually during the day and keep a carafe or jug of iced water within easy reach of the bed.
Play musical beds
Check out other bedrooms or spaces in your house for night-time temperatures. You may be sleeping – or attempting to – in the hottest room in the house. Swapping sleeping spaces could be the solution to a more relaxing summer.
Be a kid again
Do you have childhood memories of being allowed to sleep outside on hot summer nights? A tent, a torch and a bag of midnight snacks, tucked up under a tree in the garden, was a treat for me and my siblings, and I feel quite nostalgic for those cool nocturnal adventures, snug behind a mozzie net within a reassuring ‘cooee’ of our parents. Recreate a childhood ‘camping-out’ occasion in the garden or in a screened verandah, or on a deck or balcony to stay cool.
How do you cope with hot summer nights at your house? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Janet Dunn is a Houzz Australia Contributor, former NZ House & Garden writer and stylist, and avid interior design enthusiast. Ex-restaurateur and caterer, with a Professional Certificate in Gastronomy, University of Adelaide. I spend time in two beautiful places: the Sunshine Coast and the Southern Highlands. I edit and write for Protect Wooli website, a project to re-vegetate and conserve the dune and beach at Wooli on NSW's north coast.
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