Even though “summer” has yet to arrive here in the Pacific Northwest, I’m on a summer-topic streak. I’m following up my last post on summer sunlight and bedtimes with another sunny sleep topic: Keeping kids cool, comfy, and safe at night during the warm months.
Why bother to keep bedrooms cool? Temperature is an important physiological cue that promotes sleep. First, the body cools to initiate sleep. Then, the body continues to cool over the course of the night. When your child or the bedroom is too warm, this natural process is interrupted.
Sleeping too hot is a common cause of night awakenings and nightmares, and it’s a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
So I hope you don’t need any more convincing—when it comes to kid’s rooms, cool rules. Here’s how to keep kids’ sleeping space from sweltering, even in the blazing summer heat:
- Keep a small digital room thermometer on the shelf or dresser (this one even changes color to alert you when the room's too hot). The ideal bedroom temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees.
- Opt for simple cotton sheets to keep things cool. It’s a myth that babies sleep best on soft, fuzzy surfaces. Fleece sheets, flannel sheets and sheepskins trap heat, which can lead to an uncomfortably warm sleep environment.
- A room that that’s darker stays cooler. To keep the sun’s rays from turning your child’s room into a sauna, keep the curtains closed when no one’s in the room.
- Heaps of blankets are also unnecessary (and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against them for safety reasons). If your older toddler or child likes to fall asleep under a blanket, sneak into her room to turn down her heavy blanket before you go to sleep.
- Ceiling fans can keep a room 15 to 20 degrees cooler. A few hours before bedtime, use fans to blow warm air out of the room.
- Get kids in the tub before bedtime for a cool-down bath. If they're outside all day in the summer like mine, they probably need the scrubdown, anyway.
- Give pajama drawers a makeover: summer sleepwear should be lightweight and breathable (fleece footie pajamas need not apply). Babies who are swaddled can go pajama-less during the summer with just a diaper under the swaddle.
- For an icy treat, store pillowcases in the freezer and slip a fresh, cold cover on your child’s pillow at bedtime.
Keep in mind that a child who is too hot at night may not say that she’s too hot. She may awaken with a nightmare, ask for a glass of water, or just cry out for you. That’s why it’s important to watch bedroom temperature and make corrections as needed. You don’t need to obsess over it. But this is an area where a little attention to detail can pay off in a big way.