11 Simple Ways You Can Keep Cool at Night During a Heat Wave

published Jul 1, 2015
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Credit: Minette Hand

Sweaty nights are so frustrating—and the days that follow can be pretty bad themselves. Though there are many things we can do to cool off during hot summer days, nights can be tricky because, well, we’re asleep and can’t do much!

If you’re spending The Great Heat Wave of 2019 tossing, turning, and throwing off damp sheets with an angry flourish, here are a few ways to make those hot summer nights a bit cooler.

Make sure your ceiling fan is turning in the correct direction

Ceiling fans should be pushing the air down in the summer; if you can’t feel the breeze when you’re under it, switch the direction the blades are turning. Also, as Good Housekeeping puts it, “ceiling fans cool people, not rooms,” so only use the one in your bedroom while you’re actually sleeping.

Use standing fans strategically

One placed facing the bed is of course going help you feel cooler at night, but if you can create a cross breeze with two fans that harness the cooling effect of an open window, even better.

Use box fans in open windows

While this is only recommended if the outside temperature is cooler than the indoor temperature, putting a box fan in a window also helps pull a cool breeze into the room.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Make your fan-breezes even cooler

Try placing a bowl of ice in front of a standing fan or hanging a wet towel over it, as the New York Times suggests. Alternatively, spritz yourself with some water or even water mixed with a few drops of rubbing alcohol (which evaporates faster than water) and stand in front of the fan.

Shower or bathe in cool water

Summers in hot climates often necessitate end-of-day showering, so this tip is a twofer. A cool wash-down will help lower your temperature, and as the water evaporates from your skin after you’re done, you’ll continue to cool off. At the very least you’ll start the night fresh, clean, and cool.

Open the windows

This should only be done once the sun is down and only when the outside temperature is cooler than the indoor temperature. If you can sleep with the windows open, do it, but make sure to close them before the sun hits your house in the morning.

Keep curtains closed in the bedroom during the day

If your bedroom receives direct sunlight during the day, make sure to keep the sun out so you don’t unnecessarily heat up the room even more.

Check your bedding

There are several ways to make sure your bedding will help keep you as cool as possible. First, make sure your sheets are 100 percent cotton or another breathable natural fiber. Polyester blends (often found in wrinkle-free sheets) will make you sleep hot. Second, know that different types of weaves have different feels. Flannel, of course, is extremely warm, but even sateen and percale have a different feel. Percale feels the coolest.

Also keep in mind that the higher the thread count, the tighter the weave of the fabric—this will affect how much air can pass through your sheets. Sticking to thread counts around 400 will keep your sheets feeling luxurious but will also allow them to circulate air well. Even the color of your sheets can make a difference. Light-colored sheets absorb less heat and also psychologically “feel” cooler. Last, check your mattress protector. Many that are waterproof actually have a plastic layer that can make you feel much, much hotter at night.

Avoid heating the house with evening cooking

Try to eat cold meals—which will also help you feel cooler—or do your cooking outside on the grill if you can. If you need some ideas, here are the 10 most-saved no-heat recipes from Kitchn.


Humid air feels warmer and diminishes sweating’s ability to cool us down. A dehumidifier cools the air by pulling moisture out of it. You don’t want to go too dry either, so try to purchase a unit with a gauge on it and set it to 45 percent humidity.

Sleep where it’s coolest

If your bedroom is too hot to sleep in, consider camping out in a cooler room. Foam mattresses retain more heat than spring mattresses, so they’re going to feel hotter—plus the body-conforming effect you love so much also means more body contact. If you can retire to an old mattress in another bedroom, or even just the sofa, that might be a nice relief on super hot nights. And if you really want to stay cool, maybe unpack that hammock, string it up between sturdy supports inside your home, and make that your bed for the summer.

This post was most recently updated on 7.17.19 — TW