Beat the Heat: 14 Sleep Solutions to Keep You Cool at Night
Gel Pillows, Chillows, Natural Latex, and More
Summer can be rough on sleep. We look at the best ways to keep cool in bed when your AC isn’t up to the task.
Feeling hot makes sleep worse. It’s something you’ve probably felt at night, and it’s a consistently supported result in sleep monitoring trials. To make your sleep better, aim for a room temperature between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, an you should fall asleep faster and sleep through the night more easily. This can be even more important as we age – the older we get, the less sensitive (PDF) we are to subtle temperature change, even though it can still keep us awake.
This is all well and good to know, but what if your room doesn’t really get that cold? We get it; as people with a swamp cooler in Arizona summers, there are nights when we hit the low 80s at best. It’s uncomfortable, it’s annoying, and it’s just not great rest. This can be even worse if you have hot flashes, night sweats, or just generally tend to warm up at night. If you’re in a place where your heat and humidity just isn’t going down, we have some recommendations to help reduce that summer drag.
Cooling Mattresses and Toppers
Thickness: 10 or 12 inch
Layers: 1” Latex Foam, 1.5” Gel Memory Foam, 1” Support Foam, 5.5” Incased Coils, 1” Support Foam
Warrantee: 10-year manufacturer defect
This mattress combines the benefits and comfort of memory foam with the hypoallergenic and cooling properties of natural latex. Latex is a breathable foam padding that circulates heat away from the body better than traditional mattress materials, while providing contouring that’s a bit “springier” than memory foam. The mattress includes individually encased steel coils that respond to movement and airflow to help you move during sleep without waking your partner.
Like most bed-in-a-box setups, it arrives in a smaller but heavy package and expands after opening, so make sure you can lift, or have assistance in lifting, up to 80 pounds. Expect the expansion to be mostly complete in a few hours but allow up to 48 hours to reach its full size. It can be used with or without a box spring, depending on your preference.
This is a firm mattress, which can be a good or bad thing. If you prefer a softer mattress, the 12” Memory Foam Hybrid version is Medium Plush instead of Medium Firm.
Thickness: 10 Inch
Layers: 2.5” Memory Foam, 7.5” High Density Foam
Warrantee: 30 day trial and 20-year manufacturer defect
This is a fully foam mattress that uses breathable, tempered foam in its top layer to promote cooling and reduce heat. It also distributes movement, meaning you’ll wake your partner less often if you tend to get up during the night. Like most foam mattresses, it doesn’t need a box spring, and will work with adjustable bed platforms. The thick foam provides orthopedic support and can reduce neck and back pain during sleep.
It comes with a premium foam pillow and machine-washable mattress cover for easy cleaning.
It can take a while for the memory foam to return to its original position, and the corners of the mattress may be a bit compressed.
Thickness: 10 Inch
Layers: .75” Soft Quilting, 2.5” fast response Energex gel foam, 7.5” high-density polyurethane foam
Warrantee: 10 Years
It’s designed specifically with cooling in mind, and uses an open, responsive polymer to help regulate body heat temperature. Its Energex gel also has a faster response time, and is “springier” than traditional memory foam, so it goes back to its original shape much more quickly.
Like most foam beds, it can be used on a adjustable frame, standard frame, on a box spring, etc, depending on preference.
It tends to lose its shape over time, more so than other foam mattress products.
Layers: 3.5” Cool Gel Memory Foam, 2” Gel Memory Foam, 8.5” high-density foam
Warrantee: 10 Years
The top lay of cool gel memory foam is designed to disperse heat away from the body, allowing for cooler, more restful sleep. It also returns to its original shape more quickly, making it a bit more durable. Gel foam is more porous that conventional memory foam, so the texture is plusher while still retaining its supportive properties.
The mattress comes with two shredded foam pillows, and as designed to fit and mold to adjustable bedframes, as well as the standard models.
Foam and memory foam tend to be firmer that pillowtop mattresses, and this one falls into the same category. If you need a very soft mattress, conventional may be a better choice.
Thickness: 2 inches
Layers: 2” Gel Memory Foam
Warrantee: 60 Day Trial and 3-Year Warrantee
It’s a mattress topper, so it can be used over your existing mattress. This has the same gel memory foam benefits as the full mattresses, including cooling, pain relief, and contouring, at a lower price point. It’s made of high quality materials, and has an excellent warrantee, especially with their 60-day trial period.
It’s thinner and doesn’t have the same cooling potential as a full mattress. It can also feel a bit “squishy” since it’s not backed by high density foam, but this is also a benefit if you like a softer mattress.
Layers: Sealed Pad filled with cool gel
Warrantee: Standard Returns
It’s an individual pad, and can be used while sleeping, sitting, or exercising. It’s designed to cool for 2 to 3 hours normally, or 3 to 4 hours if refrigerated before use. It fits over or under sheets and can be used with any mattress.
Once it’s done cooling, it keeps warming up with body heat, and at its best it’s not designed to cool the whole night. The gel can also get stuck and harden in the corners. Overall, it’s a really neat concept, but one that needs more refinement.
BedJet Climate Comfort
So, what exactly is this thing? The Bedjet is a pressured air circulator that forces cool (or hot, depending on the settings) air between the sheets, kind of like a cold hair dryer or reverse vacuum cleaner. The device itself sits on the floor, with a tube and vent that clips on to the mattress.
Why should I use one? The biggest “pro” here is that the Bedjet really works, and it works consistently. By forcing air between the top and bottom bedsheets, it creates a cooler climate in bed without needing to drop the temperature in the entire room or house. If you want to maximize the cooling, the company makes a specific sheet set to better distribute the air – it’s also divided to allow couples to customize their own settings if they prefer different temperatures. The newest version is equipped with an aromatherapy diffuser for relaxation and to freshen your sheets.
The Bedjet comes with a Bluetooth app that has a number of interesting features. Its “biorhythm temperature technology” suggests the best setting to use throughout the night, and it can be set to change by the hour. This allows you to set a temperature schedule that helps with falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up gently. As an example, it can be set to comfortably cool as you drift off, lower the wind current as you sleep, then start to gently warm to wake up in the morning. Very different, and a neat new approach.
The Bedjet is designed to work best in rooms up to, but not warmer than 80 degrees. If your room gets really, really warm, you may need to use this along with a space cooler to really make a difference.
Chillows and Cooling Pillows
Cleaning: Fully machine washable (pillow and case); Pillow can be re-fluffed by running it through the dryer
Warrantee: 120-night satisfaction guaranteed, 20-year manufacturer warrantee
This is a super-customizable, very high-quality pillow with an excellent warrantee. Unlike most shredded foam pillows, there’s an inner compartment with a zipper, so you can add or remove filling to get it to exactly the firmness you want. It also comes with a Kool-Flow Micro-Vented Viscose of Bamboo Cover to distribute heat and promote cooling, which, like the pillow, is fully machine washable.
The pillow may start out a bit firm and require some customization to get the texture right. It can also get clumpy, and may need to be run through the dryer to restore the fluff.
Cleaning: Removable, machine washable cover
It uses gel infused, ventilated memory foam for improved circulation, providing a nice cooling effect. It also includes all the standard benefits of memory foam, like improved head and neck support, and pain reduction.
It’s not as firm as some standard memory foam pillows and is a bit thick (around 5”). If you prefer low, supportive pillows, this probably isn’t the best memory foam option for you.
Cleaning: Washable moisture wicking pillow case
Warrantee: 30 day trial, 3-year manufacturer
This pillow is designed around cooling as its main function, and it incudes 2 pounds of gel wrapped around the memory foam core. It also includes the benefits of memory foam, and contours to the shape of the head and neck during sleep.
It has more of a smell than standard memory foam (they all have some odor; it usually goes away in a day or two), possibly because of the gel wrap. It may take more time to air out.
Filling: Empty when shipped; fill with water at home
Cleaning: Non-machine washable, can be covered by a pillowcase (not included)
Warrantee: Not provided, standard returns
They fit over an existing pillow, and since the filling is water, they’re significantly less expensive than gel and memory foam options.
This is a neat concept that’s somewhat lacking in execution. The pillows can leak, the foam inside tends to bunch up and become lumpy, and the seams are on the flimsy end. As with the gel sleeping pad, they cool for a while, but warm up if used overnight.
Sleep and Gel Masks
This mask has fuller coverage to keep out light, and is made of a soft, gentle material. It can be used with or without the cooling gel pack, which fits into a small zipper compartment that opens at the top. The gel pack should be refrigerated before use to help with cooling. Earplugs are also included.
The mask can have a mild odor, which goes away after washing.
The IMAK gently conforms to the shape of the face without putting pressure on the eyelids. It uses a bead filling that can be chilled in the freezer for a cool but not uncomfortably cold feeling. The light pressure from the beads can also help with mild headaches.
It’s not as heavy as headache-specific masks, and there are better options for that purpose.
If you’re looking for maximum cooling and don’t need a sleep mask, this is a good option. It has full-face coverage, a soft backing, and a gel that stays contouring and flexible above 20 degrees.
It’s not a full sleep mask, and it’s only designed to cool for around 15 minutes or so. It’s a nice option to cool you down quickly, but not something to wear all night.