For years, doctors and sleep experts have said that 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is the best room temperature to get a good night’s sleep. But a new study suggests that’s chilly advice for older adults.
The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, says that especially for those 65 and older, warmer temperatures are better — between 68 and 77 degrees. Below or above that range, sleep quality declines.
The study also emphasized what a news release calls “substantial between-individual differences in optimal bedroom temperature.”
In the study, researchers from the Marcus Institute for Aging Research and Harvard University had 50 participants 65 and older in the Boston area wear devices to monitor their sleep, while also monitoring the sleep environment through sensors. The study followed them for a full year, collecting data on more than 11,000 nights of sleep.
Dr. Carol Ash, sleep expert with RWJBarnabas Health, who was not part of the study, told Today that older people probably need the higher sleep temperature because as people age it’s harder to stay warm. “We think it’s related to the fact that, as you age, your ability to regulate your internal temperature is not as robust,” she said.
As Healthline reports, ambient temperature is crucial to falling asleep — and for staying that way. It is not one-size-fits-all, though.
“For initiation of sleep, low ambient light and temperature send signals to the body that it this time to secrete neurotransmitters that facilitate sleep,” Dr. Sudha Tallavajhula, sleep neurologist at UTHealth Houston and TIRR Memorial Hermann, told Healthline. “During sleep, we oscillate between phases where our body temperature is regulated differently.”
”The ideal temperature for most people is believed to be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the Sleep Foundation. For infants, a room that’s a couple of degrees warmer — say up to 69 degrees Fahrenheit — could provide a good sleep temperature.
“As their bodies are smaller and still developing, they are more sensitive to changes in ambient temperature,” the foundation reports, noting a too-warm temperature “may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.”
For most, a too-cold bedroom is “not considered as detrimental as an overly warm” bedroom, the foundation adds. But either can be uncomfortable and interfere with sleep, including the important Rapid Eye Movement sleep stage. And during that REM sleep, the human body’s temperature regulation isn’t efficient.
Good sleep is part of a solid health foundation that includes exercise and diet. Not getting enough sleep or high-quality sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, poorer cognition and impulse control and other challenges.
To get the best sleep, experts suggest adopting a consistent sleep routine, keeping the light low and avoiding overstimulating activities and caffeine too close to bedtime.
The Boston-based study also suggests that climate change has serious potential impact on sleep quality for older adults, especially for those who are low-income.