Note: The following information is intended as a general guide only. Seek specialist advice before making any change to your home.
Getting a decent night’s sleep during a hot and humid time of year can be much harder than it is during even winter time – at least then you can put more layers on! Once you’ve stripped off that last sheet, you’ll need to find other ways of keeping cool and getting sleep in summer.
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- why airflow is important for a comfortable sleep,
- keeping the home secure and cool, and
- overnight cooling options.
It’s nighttime, and still hot!? I thought only Aussies had this problem?
No – even though we’re not as humid as our trans-tasman cousins year round, New Zealand still experiences heatwaves and in some parts like the far north, long hot summers. When the daytime temperature is up in the 30s, night temperature can sit around 18 degrees – what most in Aotearoa would consider a nice daytime temp. While it might not happen as consistently as Oz, there’s a good chance this summer will bring at least a few nights that feel unbearable when you’re trying to get some sleep.
Making the bed for hot weather
A winter bed has plenty of layers that just aren’t right for summer. Start by stripping out the underlying wool sleeper and replacing it with a thinner (but comfortable) underlay. Then make sure your fitted sheet is breathable and light enough that it won’t generate too much heat – this is one layer you won't be able to drop over the course of the night!
If you’ve got flannel sheets on during winter, it might be time to replace those with some lighter, more breathable cotton sheets instead. While many flannel sheets are breathable too, they’re typically a heavier material which isn’t optimal if you’re running hot at night.
Now for the biggest piece of bed clothing, the duvet. A winter duvet inner will be thick and heavy which is as uncomfortable is the summer as it is comfortable during winter. Having a thinner duvet inner that’s designed for warm weather just gives you that versatility – your duvet cover will be able to fit on either style, as long as they're the same size (e.g. King, Queen etc). But thickness isn’t the whole story here; the material filler inside the duvet makes a huge difference. An inner filled with down/feathers will be quite warm making these popular in colder months. Instead a cotton or bamboo filled duvet inner is lighter weight and more breathable as well. Best bet? Visit a good homewares store and check out the different options – comfort should come into your purchase decision as well.
If you’re the kind of home that has throws and other blankets strewn across your bed, then it might be time for a restyling of your bedroom aesthetic. Extra blankets should be packed away in the linen cupboard as they simply add more bulk to the bed and warmth you don’t need.
Remaking the bed with light, breathable materials with the minimal layers is a good start to keeping cool.
Dress for the conditions
So your bed is ready for hot weather, are you? Any thick t-shirts or pajamas can contain body heat, causing us to sweat and prevent our temperature from cooling down to a comfortable level for sleep. If you’ve got a baby in the household, cool, light layers are even more important for their comfort and safety. Pick very light layers to wear to bed as this will help you feel the effects of your nighttime cooling strategies!
Getting airflow in and out of the bedroom
Fresh, cool air is critical in getting a good night’s sleep. A hot stuffy room prevents us from relaxing and settling in. Worse still, high humidity in a room can cause mould and other allergens to impact our health. Make sure you have continual airflow from the room and the rest of the home. Start by opening the door to your room. If you have a ventilation system this can help, too.
A pedestal fan on a low quiet setting can get air moving quicker around the room. For particularly warm nights, you might start with the fan on a high setting and reduce this as the temperature reduces throughout the night.
But perhaps most obvious is to open a window. This doesn’t just help airflow, but brings in fresh outside air into the home that you can’t get during a sweltering hot day. You might find a window opened just on its safety latch is enough, or a wide open window is what your household needs to sleep properly. But don’t open those just yet...
Securing the house at night time
The downside of opening your windows right up at night is security – from both people and animals. If you’re on the ground level of a home, an open window can be inviting to intruders. Windows on the 2nd floor and up of a house are usually safe as access is typically difficult from the outside. However, this should be something you simply assume – do a walkaround of your home and make note of any ways someone could access the 2nd floor windows before deciding to leave these open.
If you want outside air via the windows coming in to keep the house cool, opt for windows that are internal access only and can be latched to a fixed gap size that’s unable to be accessed or manipulated from the outside with a hand or tool. Combined with a basic fan, you can get outside airflow through a safe gap and air movement in the room at the same time.
If you’re doing some of that summer DIY on the home, lock your tools and equipment well away – especially things like scaffolding or ladders that can be used to burgle your home. And as tempting as it may be to leave just a screen door locked with a glass ranch slider open, these screen doors can be easily ripped and unlocked quietly. Locked doors at night should remain a rule in summer, too.
Some other ways to deter unwanted attention include motion-sensing outdoor lighting, alarm system (and notification of this), security cameras, an alert dog and a property clearly occupied (such as cars parked in the driveway or lights on in the home).
Air cooling options for overnight use
One of the most effective cooling solutions at nighttime is the ducted air conditioning - read more about this in our cooling option guide. Here you can set an optimal night time temperature so that you get the best sleep, and the system will control the air to this level via vents into each room. These systems can work all day long, managing fluctuations in outside heat. This also requires no extra effort at bedtime - the conditions should be perfect to go to bed straight away.
If your home doesn't have this cooling solution -and many Kiwi homes don’t, you can try standalone fans, air multipliers (fanless), or a heat pump if this reaches bedrooms.
In terms of power usage, you’ll want to experiment with your natural and electrical cooling options to keep everyone comfortable without running up noticeable increases in your usage. Using a monitor tool like Powershop’s usage tracker can help you pinpoint when and potentially what is causing any spikes.
While we might be drinking during the daytime, it’s easy to forget that hydration is one of the most important parts of relaxing into a sleep state is ample hydration. Going to bed dehydrated can make your sleep uncomfortable and cause snoring and dryness. It’s important to keep drinking water throughout the day and then a good hour before bed time, as you will lose body fluid via snoring and breathing overnight anyway. By hydrating close to but not just before, bedtime will allow you a bathroom visit before sleeping to avoid waking up during a hot night to use the toilet - and potentially struggling to get back to sleep again.
Want to know more about getting a better sleep in summer?: