Sleep

5 Ways to Sleep Better in Philly’s Never-Ending Heat

Penn professor Sigrid Veasey gave us tips to snooze more soundly as we anticipate fall's cooler temps.


sleep better heat

Philly summer isn’t over yet, so Penn professor Sigrid Veasey gives us some tips to sleep better in the heat. / Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

This past weekend was so. glorious. Barely getting into the ’80s, a gloomy Saturday, a sunny Sunday, is my kind of transition weather. Which is why next weekend’s projected slide back into lukewarm-bathtub-water air is particularly maddening. Isn’t it supposed to be fall already?! I’m ready to wear sweaters and ankle boots, pick all the apples, and, most important, sleep better.

As a chronic insomniac who’s super sensitive to heat, cold temps are heavenly. My quality of life changes drastically for the better when I’m not sweating through my sheets. But since we haven’t quite tipped over into #coolgirlfall, I chatted with Sigrid Veasey, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology who studies how sleep disruption can injure and actually kill neurons in the brain. (…and now I’m terrified.) She gave me some tips for how to facilitate sleep when the heat is keeping you from snoozing.

  1. Turn your air conditioning up

Veasey says the air temperature that’s comfortable for most people to doze off in is between 65 and 67 degrees, which, yes, is WAY cooler than most people keep their homes. I have a window air conditioner and a small room, which makes this a lot more doable for me. If this makes your PECO bills go through the roof, though, then…

  1. Buy a fan

A fan can serve multiple purposes here, Veasey says, namely drowning out the noise of the city while also cooling down your space. Note that it doesn’t have to be in your window; you can get a tabletop one, one that rotates, one that doesn’t — as long as you can feel it from your bed.

  1. Upgrade your sheets

If you’re still sleeping on cheap sheets from Target (guilty), be a real adult and buy some that are 100 percent cotton. Wirecutter loves these L.L. Bean percale ones. “Having something super absorbable makes a difference,” Veasey says.

  1. Buy a cooling mattress pad

Because we are in the peak optimization era, of course companies are making mattress pads (and even mattresses) that reduce your body temperature while you sleep, although Veasey says there hasn’t been much scientific research done on whether they actually work. Good Housekeeping’s done some amateur sleuthing, though; these are the mag’s picks.

  1. And, of course make sure your brain is ready for sleep

“You can muck around with the temperature,” Veasey says, “but if you haven’t fixed [your sleep drive and circadian rhythm], it’s not going to make a huge difference.” Translation: Make sure you haven’t slept for a while — naps, alcohol, medicine, CBD all slow down your brain waves, so your body thinks it’s slept more recently than in reality — and get those screens out of the bedroom. (Or at least go to justgetflux.com to get a plug-in that gradually filters the blue light from your computer as sundown approaches in your zip code.)