While colder temperatures are generally recommended for sleeping, a new study found that older adults may do better in warmer temperatures.
Feeling rested and ready for the day is the goal every morning, but how often it happens is another thing entirely. Many things can impact just how well (or not) you sleep ― one of which is your bedroom temperature.
It’s often said that a chilly room is ideal for a good night’s rest; the National Sleep Foundation recommends a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for ideal sleep. But, a recent study published in the journal Science of The Total Environment found that it may not be the best temperature for everyone.
The research suggests that older adults sleep best in warmer environments ― specifically in temperatures ranging from 68 to 77 degrees. To gather this data, 50 study participants wore sleep monitors that tracked restlessness, sleep duration and sleep efficiency. An environmental sensor monitored participants’ bedroom temperatures.
According to the Washington Post, the study consisted of people above 65 years old who were followed for 12 months at some point during the study’s timeline, from October 2021 to February 2023. In all, the study consisted of 11,000 nights of sleep.
The study had a few limitations; it was small and only included people in the Boston area. But experts told HuffPost that there is still merit to this research.
“I think the findings of this article are noteworthy, even with the small sample size,” because the researchers objectively measured room temperature and followed subjects over time, said Phil Gehrman, an associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not affiliated with the study.
However, he did note that there isn’t much other research that underscores the study’s findings. This means more needs to be conducted to make any definitive conclusions.
That said, the research gives many of us food for thought. How do you uncover your ideal sleep temperature? Are there reasons why some sleep better in warmer temperatures more than others? Here’s what experts think:
Your best sleep temperature is determined by a few factors.
The study emphasized that ideal sleep temperature varies from person to person — 68 to 77 degrees is a large range. Individual preference is probably the largest determining factor.
“These results highlight the potential to enhance sleep quality in older adults by optimizing home thermal environments and emphasizing the importance of personalized temperature adjustments based on individual needs and circumstances,” Amir Baniassadi, the lead study researcher, said in a news release.
In other words, some people may be hot and sweaty in a 77-degree room at night, while others may be perfectly content. What’s best for your sleep isn’t always best for your neighbor, friend or partner.
“As the study points out, there is a good deal of variability from person to person in terms of what the ideal temperature is for sleep,” Gehrman said. “I would encourage people to experiment with different room temperatures to see if they can find one that works well for them.”
Dr. Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and sleep medicine at Stanford University and author of “How To Sleep,” added that your ideal temperature could result from your health, too. Certain groups of people — like those with sleep apnea and folks going through menopause — tend to sleep warm. So, in these cases, turning the thermostat up will certainly not help them get better rest.
And, in general, Pelayo generally recommends a sleep temperature below 70 degrees — usually 68 degrees.
“It’s hard for us to sleep in hot weather ― people get uncomfortable, it gets sticky,” Pelayo said. “In fact, when you look at how sleeping surfaces are marketed these days, blankets and sheets, everything’s talking about cooling. They’re getting heat away from you.”
But technology that’s focused on warming, instead, could be an interesting space, particularly for older people, Pelayo noted.
Before quickly changing something about your sleep routine, test it out for at least a week, experts say.
It takes about a week to accurately determine your ideal sleep temperature.
To figure out your right temperature, start around the 68-degree Fahrenheit mark ― the temperature with the most supported, established research ― and work from there. Keep a log of how you felt through the night. Did you wake up cold? Are your feet chilly or too warm? Do you think a fan would help? How about an extra blanket? Take note of your observations for at least seven days, the experts said.
“I would caution people from making decisions based on only one or two nights because our sleep fluctuates on its own. Some nights are better than others,” Pelayo explained.
You don’t want to adjust the thermostat for just one night, wake up feeling more rested and assume that you found the solution. Or, oppositely, you don’t want to have a bad night of rest after turning the heat up and think that’s the reason, too.
“I ask patients not to make decisions just on one or two nights, but to wait usually a week to see whether what they’re experiencing is really happening,” Pelayo said.
Gehrman agreed that folks should stick with a room temperature for a week before trying another temperature to see how it truly impacts their sleep.
Beyond sleep, you can also use this one-week test for other sleep hygiene changes. For instance, you could use a white noise machine for a week or put up blackout curtains to see if a dark space helps you feel more rested. Or, you could implement a phone-free evening routine the hour before bed.
Some people may require more support than just a change in room temperature for better sleep.
“Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that if someone has chronic sleep problems, adjusting room temperature alone is probably not going to [be] enough to help them sleep better, but it can be a part of the solution,” Gehrman said.
For people with chronic sleep problems like insomnia and sleep apnea, it’s best to talk to your doctor to get individualized sleep solutions. Additionally, you may even be a candidate for a sleep evaluation.
Sleep evaluations can track how much you wake up at night, how much oxygen you get as you sleep, how long you spend in REM sleep and more. So, they can help you rest better if turning the temperature up or down isn’t enough.