Sleep Better: Tweak Your HVAC for a Better Night’s Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 percent of Americans have poor or insufficient sleep.

We would like to point the finger at a variety of factors for our lack of sleep. Perhaps it’s our own minds running feverishly with thoughts about the next day. Or, maybe it’s a lumpy bed’s doing or whatever noise we hear down the hall or downstairs. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, what you might not have thought about is that your bedroom’s physical environment is not suitable for a good night’s sleep.

That’s right, you can fine-tune the environment in your bedroom for a better night’s sleep.

Getting plenty of quality sleep is vital for good health and many people feel as if they simply don’t get enough of it. Keep in mind that the quality of sleep can affect your mental processing and ability to focus and overall productivity. Not to mention how much and how well you sleep can influence your metabolism, immune function and mood.

Fact is, a great night’s sleep is dependent on how comfortable you are and the temperature and humidity level in your bedroom could have a major role in how well you sleep.

Pop Quiz: What are some of the most important factors in getting a good, restful night of sleep?

A comfortable pillow? A soft mattress? Hot shower? Cozy blankets? A sleep mask? Perhaps some white noise or relaxing, nature-themed music?

All of the above are good answers but you might be surprised to learn just how important your home’s HVAC system can be in complementing some (or all) of the above in achieving that perfect night’s sleep. While your bed, comforter and pillow are all big players in a good night of rest, don’t sleep (pun intended) on the significance of your HVAC system.

This blog will take a closer look at the ways your HVAC system can be put to better use to help you sleep better.

Set cooler temperatures at night.

Your body’s internal temperature naturally decreases at night, so having a hot bedroom makes its job that much harder. You can assist your body with cooling down by lowering the temperature on your thermostat before you retire for the evening. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature for the best possible night of sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your personal preference. There’s a reason you probably prefer the cold side of the pillow.

Of course, this might mean dialing back the heat in the winter and dialing up the air conditioning in the summer. The latter, however, can lead to higher energy bills, so you might want to consider investing in a zone-controlled air conditioning system.

Note: A zoned HVAC system involves multiple thermostats, each responsible for controlling a different part of the house independently. With this type of system, you can adjust the temperature in the bedroom. This leads to less energy use and increased comfort.

Warning: There are potential risks of setting your air conditioner too low. If you set it at a very low temperature in hopes of cooling you off faster, the air conditioner will run almost continuously. This will drive up your energy bills. Also, the motor will keep running and put unnecessary strain on all moving parts. This will wear it out prematurely. So, set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature, be patient and you’ll save needless wear and tear on your HVAC system.

Willing to turn up the A/C during the heat of summer, but not interested in investing in a zone control system at this time? Surely, there are some other things you can do to make sure your HVAC system runs efficiently.

Create a breeze.

Fans are the best for this. Overhead fans can help you reach the ideal sleeping temperatures by pushing cool air on you all night long. Additionally, fans also help circulate the air to keep it fresh and breathable. Fresh air makes breathing easier. When we are sleeping and have trouble breathing, it will hinder the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Another fringe benefit is the steady hum of white noise most fans create.

This effect can be so soothing that you might even want to use a comparatively noisy box fan if your ceiling fan is too quiet. White noise can not only help you fall asleep, it can help you stay asleep by muffling middle-of-the-night noises that might otherwise wake you up.

Rearrange your furniture to allow air to circulate.

Scan your rooms to make sure that furniture isn’t obstructing the vents and flow of cool air that will help keep you cool overnight. Move furniture, drapes and toys out and away from registers to help air flow fluidly around the room. Remember that closing vents in certain rooms will not actually help cool your home faster but will create extra strain for your HVAC system.

Have routine maintenance performed on your HVAC system.

We’ve talked about this this in previous blog entries, but it merits repeating over and over. Many homeowners still don’t realize that they need to regularly maintain their HVAC units to provide optimal comfort year ‘round. Many factors can affect how efficiently your A/C is working, including the cleanliness of the vents. So, it’s critical to have your HVAC system checked prior to the cooling and heating seasons to ensure it’s working at peak efficiency.

Replace your filters.

In past blogs, we’ve often mentioned the importance of changing your air filters. Once again, we can’t overemphasize its importance.

Your HVAC system doesn’t just cool and heat your indoor air. It’s also designed to remove particulates in the air that can cause allergic symptoms and breathing problems.

Many people lose sleep at night due to congestion, coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes and sneezing. But while you’re likely to blame pollen, pet dander, mold and other such allergens, your HVAC system could also be responsible, in part, for your symptoms.

One sure way to help combat this is to regularly change your system’s air filters.

Most air filters need to be cleaned or replaced on a monthly basis, although some high-efficiency filters can last a little longer between cleanings.

Since the air filter is such a critical player in reducing these allergens, you should think about investing in a quality filter capable of trapping even the tiniest particles. You might want to consider upgrading to a HEPA-style filter with a MERV rating of at least 10 for better filtration performance.

The point is, HVAC systems play a bigger role in alleviating allergy systems than you might think, as they reduce allergens and improve indoor air quality, helping you to get a better night’s sleep.

 

Keep humidity in mind.

There really is something to the old adage that “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Besides temperature, humidity is something that could be influencing your ability to get a good’s night sleep. Humid air is less breathable air. By that, we mean your body works harder to breathe it, and that can make it more difficult to relax and lead to a more restless night of sleep.

If the humidity in your bedroom is too high, it can also feel stuffy while you feel sticky and you end up desperately tossing the covers around until you fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. Levels above 50 percent also foster mold growth and other allergens, which can trigger respiratory issues, which will interrupt your sleep. Usually this isn’t a huge problem if you have central air conditioning since the A/C helps control the humidity with the home.

Humidity below 30 percent, however, can make your skin, throat and nasal passages cracked and scratchy. Are your lips chapped? Does your nose bleed often? You don’t want to feel restless at night, so set your humidity level to something that facilitates sleep, ideally somewhere between 30 and 45 percent. This can usually be achieved by investing in a whole-house humidifier. Or, keep a portable humidifier in the bedroom to achieve ideal sleeping conditions.

Hint: Using an inexpensive digital hygrometer, you can measure the humidity level in your bedroom.

Don’t let outside air in.

While your air conditioning is running, leaving outdoor doors and windows open is a great way to reduce operating efficiency and undermine your HVAC’s system’s ability to bring your home to a more comfortable temperature. Whether you’re letting hot air into your home during the day or bringing in cool air at night, your air conditioner has to fight even harder to pull the humidity out of the air and cool it down.

A closely related mistake is using exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathroom. These fans can push conditioned air out of your house, which needlessly increases the strain on your A/C unit. During the cooling season, use these fans as sparingly as possible.

You don’t have a programmable thermostat?

Heat rises. This means that if your bedroom is on the second floor, it’s likely hotter than the rest of your Pittsburgh home. We’ve noted above it’s a good idea to lower the temperature before going to bed. If you want to make it more convenient, consider having a programmable thermostat installed in your home.

With a programmable thermostat, all you have to do is set a schedule once. Your system will continue to follow your instructions until you decide to change it again. You can tell your thermostat to automatically make your home cooler before you go to bed and have it warm up again right before you wake up. You can wake up comfortable and rested without having to fiddle with your thermostat all the time.

There’s evidence that the next advancement in heating and cooling could be wi-fi thermostats. Once they are synced to a wi-fi router, you’ll have remote access from a computer or via an app, all from the convenience of a smartphone or tablet. Such wi-fi thermostats keep you connected to your home with control literally in the palm of your hand.

Not only can these programmable and wi-fi thermostats help you get a better sleep, they can lead to decreased energy usage and utility bills and may even extend the life of your HVAC equipment.

For more information on programmable and wi-fi thermostats, please visit the Phillips website for contact information.

Better bedtime habits.

We understand how crazy life can be but, if possible, maintain a bedtime schedule and routine. Try to go to bed and wake up close to the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help reset your body’s internal clock.

Making your own personal bedtime ritual could help your body get ready for bed. For example, avoid eating big meals close to bedtime. Do a relaxing activity to help you take it easy such as a warm bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music. Get in the habit of doing these things before bed. Your body will learn that it’s time to head to bed and go to sleep.

Your home’s comfort is our business and we want to help keep you cozy day and night. Give yourself the peace of mind that comes from offering you the best service and best products possible.

No matter where you purchased your HVAC unit, Phillips Heating & Air Conditioning professionals can help you repair and maintain it for maximum efficiency. Contact one of our service technicians and get the sleep and comfort you have always wanted.