Bedding tips and tricks to make summer nights a breeze
Breathable fabrics? Check. Ice Pack? Check. Your summer night survival guide.
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Summer nights are the best. The daylight stretches out, backyard barbecues can linger into the evening, and the weather can be downright pleasant once the sun settles. That is, until it’s time to actually turn in for the night. As Reviewed’s sleep expert and the resident of an air condition-less Boston apartment, I know all too well the pains of sleeping when it’s hot. Fortunately, there are a handful of products you can shop for that make summer nights as cool as evenings.
Look for breathable and cooling bed sheets
Companies approach cooling bedding a couple different ways, including weave structures within fabrics and various technologies that are actually embedded into fabric during manufacture. Cotton and bamboo are easy, breathable fallbacks that wick away moisture from your skin, but there are other options that go a step further.
We tested—and really enjoyed—the Casper Hyperlite sheets, which have a unique weave that makes the bedding incredibly lightweight and allows for air to escape through tiny vents. Our tester likened the fabric to high-end gauze, and she didn’t find any similar sheets that relied solely on ventilation for cooling properties. The sheets are made of Tencel—a brand of lyocell, which is a fabric made from plant cellulose—and range from $109 for a twin set up to $169 for a king or California king set. Their construction might make them worth the higher cost to get through the summer, especially if you like to sleep underneath a layer of fabric year-round.
Other bedding may claim that it’s infused with “outlast technology,” which relies on capsule-like “thermocules” that are embedded into fabrics. (In other words, you won’t notice they’re there and they won’t change the bedding’s texture or feel.) But our tester who covered the Casper sheets—and has expertise in textiles—has yet to find a set with outlast technology that manages to stay consistently cool. In her experience, they provide a brief reprieve from heat when first lying down, but it’s not something that lasts through the night.
Check out pillows that cool your head
It’s no secret that keeping your head cool can help your whole body thermoregulate. Even post-shower wet hair can help you chill as it provides evaporative cooling—or, in simpler terms, the water cools you as it dries off. But there are specific products out there that are designed to make you feel cooler overnight, and don’t involve going to bed with damp hair.
I tested a whopping 15 products to evaluate our latest list of the best pillows, many of which claim cooling properties. Spoiler alert: Only one actually performed. Most of the others didn’t make me feel hot, sure, but they also didn’t help me feel cooler. They were just what you’d expect from an average pillow.
The Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Dual Breeze Pillow was a game-changer—and not just in terms of pillows. I’ve used plenty of sleep products as I doze off night after night, and I can honestly say this one stands out across everything I’ve gotten my hands on. Tempur-Pedic, the legacy mattress brand, integrates a remarkably effective cooling gel into both sides of this pillow’s sleep surface. (It takes the meaning of the “cool side of the pillow” to a whole new level.)
Tempur-Pedic doesn’t offer any details on how or why the gel works the way that it does. I wasn’t even able to get a customer service representative to clarify whether it cools you through the “crystals” that purportedly exist in a lot of pet cooling mats or if it’s some other mechanism. The rep always replied with a vague answer along the lines of, “The gel material is cooling.” The furthest elaboration was that the gel aids in providing “maximum airflow throughout the pillow.”
In my opinion, “maximum airflow” doesn’t explain how the pillow felt as cool as it did. During my tests, it was wrapped in a pillow protector and pillowcase, and neither dampened its cooling effects—which I’d compare to a brain freeze on the outside of my head (as opposed to the typical ones you get when eating ice cream). There’s no denying that it felt great on hot nights.
Buy a mattress that won’t cook you
If you’re shopping for a new mattress, you’ve probably come across claims that certain ones boast cooling properties or perforations that allow for greater airflow. These are good starting points, but if you’re on the hunt for something to ward off heat, there’s more to keep in mind.
In my testing of numerous mattresses in a box, “perforations” haven’t consistently meant anything when it comes to whether or not the mattress retains heat. In fact, some of the options with perforations retained heat when we blasted them with an infrared lightbulb for hours.
When it comes to cooling and airflow, structural differences are the most important factors to pay attention to. Hybrid mattresses are generally better at allowing for airflow due to the spring coils that make up the base. Foam mattresses, in contrast, lack these options for airflow. So if you sleep hot and you’re dead-set on this material, you’ll be best served by “open-cell” foam as opposed to "closed-cell" foam.
Open-cell foam is the term used for foam made with bubbles that rupture during manufacture. There’s more space in the mattress for air to enter and pass through. In closed-cell foam, the bubbles form individual chambers. This type of foam is often used for insulation, which is the exact reason you don’t necessarily want to sleep on it. Instead of dissipating heat, the pockets of bubbles hold onto it.
Get back to the basics
New bedding and mattresses are an investment. Luckily, there are more economical ways to stay cool overnight. For one, consider taking a warm shower before bed. This may sound counterintuitive or even downright unappealing if it’s muggy in your home or outside. But showering will temporarily heat up your body. After you get out, your body temperature will start to drop and you’ll feel cooler; plus, the water’s evaporation as it dries will offer another cooling sensation.
Other low-tech solutions? Place a box fan in the window overnight so that a breeze pulls in cooler air from outside. And while some experts don’t recommend sleeping with wet hair, I’ve found that going to bed without blow drying my hair and leaving a fan running really helps keep me cool. On evenings when I’m out running errands or meeting up with friends, I use a smart plug to turn my fan on—allowing my apartment to chill somewhat before I’m even back through the door.
Finally, you can use an old-school hot water bottle as a cold pack. Fill one up, pop it in the freezer, and curl up with it when you go to bed. Likewise, giant ice packs can provide a chilly sensation as you doze off—we even have some tips for DIY-ing your own. Just be sure you have some buffer between your skin and the ice pack, otherwise it might get too cold.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.