The wrong room temperature, be it too hot or too cold, can interfere with your sleep quality. For those living in a hot and humid climate like Brisbane, sleeping with the air conditioning on seems like a no-brainer.
But does sleeping with air conditioning make you sick?
In truth, there is no definite “yes” or “no” answer to that question. To understand what works best for us, we need to look into the following points:
- How our body temperature changes during sleep
- The ideal bedroom temperature for sleep
- Things that can affect your body temperature and interfere with sleep
- And more…
Time to dive into the details and find the answer.
How Your Body Temperature Changes During Sleep
Does turning on the air conditioning make you feel drowsy?
Well, you are not alone. And there’s a reason for that to happen.
In general, the core temperature of the human body is around 37°C. As the night progresses, it can drop by one or two degrees. This acts as a signal for the body to prepare for sleep.
The temperature keeps dropping and is usually the lowest between 2-4 am. Eventually, our body temperature starts rising again to prepare us for waking up. The increase in core temperature is one factor that nudges you to slowly start waking from sleep.
The reason behind this pattern is the circadian rhythms of the body that get regulated by light. And that’s one reason that experts suggest avoiding the use of smartphones and TV screens before going to bed.
Beyond that, our metabolism rates also drop by almost 10% at night. In other words, the body starts generating less heat.
You might wonder why.
There are no definitive answers. But one hypothesis suggests that this is due to evolutionary effects where sleeping at night when temperatures are colder allows us to conserve energy.
If the bedroom temperature is too hot or too cold, it will affect your internal body temperature. This will make it harder for you to fall asleep. No wonder, irregular body temperature patterns have been associated with insomnia.
Besides, the temperature of the body is also linked closely with the generation of melatonin, the hormone that directly affects your sleep hormone. Melatonin secretion is controlled by the circadian clock and the nocturnal blood levels of the hormone are much higher than daytime levels.
In other words, if the external temperature is not ideal, your body has to work harder to maintain the right temperature. That is not the right scenario for getting the best quality sleep.
That’s the reason why many of us feel colder in an air-conditioned room at night and might wake up shivering to pile on an extra blanket. That makes it necessary to manage the micro-climate of the bedroom to optimize sleep quality.
What’s the Ideal Temperature for Sleeping?
Now that’s a question that can always lead to arguments. Many of us have individual preferences and whatever works best for you can be the right choice.
Here’s what the scientific data says…
One study has indicated that the ideal temperature range for a restful sleep is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. Note, this study was conducted in older adults. The optimal temperature range may vary with age and the season.
For example, in Brisbane, the ideal temperature setting for summer is around 24 to 25 degrees Celsius.
If temperatures go above 25°C, a drop in sleep efficiency rate is observed. There are slight variations in body temperature as we cycle between REM and non-REM (NREM) sleep. Even though lower body temperature facilitates sleep initiation, during REM sleep or deep sleep, body temperatures remain slightly elevated.
There is one more factor beyond temperature that we can’t ignore and that is humidity. As per experts, indoor humidity levels between 30 to 50 percent work best for most people. Besides, high humidity can promote wakefulness in most people.
If the weather is too humid, you can run the AC in dry mode which removes the excess moisture from the air. Plus, dry mode also reduces the power consumption of the AC.
On the flip side, when the humidity is too low, it can do more damage than just your skin getting dry. Lower humidity can increase respiratory irritation and the chances of catching an infection. It can also cause dry or sore throats, eye dryness, and nosebleeds. So, make sure not to overuse the dry mode.
Remember: sleep quality is dependent on multiple factors and not just temperature alone. According to Rachel Salas, a neurologist and sleep researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine, “People underestimate how their sleep environment and behaviors can impact their sleep.”
Is Too Much Air Conditioning Bad in General?
There is no doubt that cooler bedroom temperatures will help you to sleep better. A hot room will lead to discomfort making it hard to fall asleep. Setting the AC at the right temperature will help to trigger sleep and have a restful night.
But in reality, ACs are not entirely without health risks. Firstly, running the AC for long periods can make the room too cold for comfort. Moreover, research points out that there is a risk of developing respiratory symptoms related to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) if you are spending too much time in an over-air-conditioned space. The reason is that ACs affect the quality of the air we breathe in.
So, is it safe to sleep with air conditioning on?
Admittedly, there is no particular reason to consider air conditioning an unhealthy choice if you are using it right. It all comes down to keeping the unit clean and setting the right temperature that suits your body.
Here are a few negative aspects that you need to consider when sleeping with the air conditioning on.
- Cooler temperatures at night can cause our immune system to slow down. This can make you more susceptible to conditions like common cold or a dry cough. Or else, you might wake up with a sore throat.
- If the AC unit is not clean, it will circulate germs and other airborne contaminants like dust mites, pet dander, etc. during the night. The lack of fresh filtered air in the room can make you feel sluggish or give you a headache when you wake up.
- Unless you set the right temperature, you might wake up shivering in the night. This will disturb your deep sleep pattern and you might wake up feeling unrefreshed.
- In case you have joint pain or muscle cramps, sleeping with the AC on can add to your discomfort. The concentrated cold air from the AC can cause the muscles to tense up and stiffen.
- Some research has pointed out that higher airflow velocity from an AC can disrupt sleep patterns in some adults. However, more studies are required to determine the exact effects of varying airflow on sleep patterns.
- If you have an older AC machine, it might generate noise. This can harm your sleep.
Beyond that, there are negative effects of low humidity on our skin and hair if we spend long hours in an air-conditioned room. Since air conditioners remove humidity from the room, it can make the skin feel dry and stretched. In addition, it will also make your hair feel dull and dry.
People with skin issues may find their problems aggravated by staying in an air-conditioned room for long hours. The solution is to keep the skin moist at all times and stay hydrated.
A common condition many people face is a sore throat from sleeping with air conditioning on. This can be due to the cold or the discomfort caused by inhaling the dry air for long periods. The cold and dry air can cause inflammation of the sinuses in the nasal zone, leading to congestion, and sneezing.
Beyond that, the mucus membranes lining the throat area can get irritated by the dry air, leading to discomfort. The mucus secreted by these cells acts as a defense mechanism against harmful bacteria and other unwanted foreign bodies entering the body. When these cells dry out, you are left more vulnerable to infections.
And another thing…
While sleeping with air conditioning on has its advantages, there is a price to pay which comes in the form of utility bills. Keeping the unit switched off at night will help you to conserve energy. It will help to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Cooling systems like ACs consume almost 20% of the total electrical energy used in buildings across the globe and trigger emissions, which is significant in this era of climate change.
All in all, it is safe to sleep with air conditioning on at night as long as you remain mindful of the possible issues. That way, you can take the right measures to prevent any unwanted side effects.
Sleeping With Air Conditioning: Bonus Tips
- The cold air flowing over you can give you a cold in the morning. It is best to direct the airflow of the AC upwards.
- You can use a timer to switch off the AC during the night. This will help in saving power once your body has cooled down and entered the sleep state.
- Make sure that the filters in the AC are clean.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to get the best results.
For many newbie parents, a common question is, can babies sleep with air conditioning?
Since newborns can’t regulate their body heat effectively, they are super sensitive to temperature changes. So, maintaining an optimum room temperature is essential. That makes aggressive air conditioning unsuitable for them. If you are using air conditioning for your baby, make sure to take the proper precautions.
Should you sleep with the air conditioner on?
If you prefer a natural ambiance for sleeping and do not need the AC to cool you, it is best to switch it off. That way, you won’t be facing any health issues from exposure to the cold and dry air when your body temperature is low. Plus, air conditioners are power-hungry machines, and switching them off will help you save on utility bills.
That said, if you can’t sleep due to the inconvenient combination of heat and humidity, keeping the AC switched off is not going to work. In such a scenario, it is best to set the unit at an optimized temperature that works best for you. Make sure to keep the air conditioner clean and well-maintained to prevent dust and allergens from circulating in the room. Balancing air conditioning with natural ventilation is the best way to reduce any unwanted risk of ACs.
Now it’s your turn to find out what works best to make you sleep like a baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to sleep with air conditioning on?
When you sleep with air conditioning on, make sure that the temperature is not set too cold. The other important point is to keep the unit well-maintained and clean.
Can I get a sore throat from sleeping with air conditioning?
Yes, you can get a sore throat from sleeping with air conditioning. It may happen if the humidity in the room is too low or the filters in the air conditioning are not clean enough.
Why do I sweat when I sleep with air conditioning?
If you are sweating while sleeping in an air-conditioned room, it can be due to infections and health concerns. Medications like hormonal treatments or antidepressants can also be a cause. Other reasons include excess intake of caffeine, alcohol, or recreational drugs.