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Air Conditioning and Sleep

Sleep is something many of us just can’t seem to get enough of. The average 8 hours a night can seem like a dream! This can seriously affect the quality of life, as well as the expected lifespan.

Even if you do get the recommended amount of sleep a night, you may still wake up tired, lethargic, and craving more. Or you may think that you could really use some more beauty rest. At the end of the day, many of us do not get enough quality sleep.

Fortunately, air conditioning can help! Whether it be heating or cooling, or both (reverse cycle), there are ways an air conditioner can help you sleep that you may never have considered.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you receive the full benefits. We will go through this in more detail as just one of the many benefits of air conditioning.

How much sleep do we really need?

The amount of sleep adults need varies from person to person. Most healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours per night. However, according to the National Institute of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night.

Children and teenagers require more, while the elderly require less. Saying that, elderly people still typically require at least 7 hours per night.

Women sleeping in summer

Quality is also important. There are five stages of sleep during the human sleep cycle. Each stage of sleep in the sleep cycle offers different benefits. Rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep is the fifth and deepest sleep stage.

Deeper sleep stages, especially REM sleep, are particularly important. It is time when the body repairs, restores, and readies itself for the day ahead. Air conditioning can be particularly valuable in supporting REM sleep.

During REM sleep, the temperature regulation system in the brain switches off. When this happens, room temperature becomes the main way the body maintains temperature. An air conditioner can ensure ambient room temperature is optimal for supporting the deeper REM sleep.

What are the effects of lack of sleep?

At least 1 in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, with a wide range of causes blamed. While losing sleep may not seem like a big deal, sleep deprivation has a range of negative outcomes that go way beyond just feeling tired and drowsy. It can affect your health, mood, brain function, and relationships, all in the short and long term.

Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. You may not even be aware that you are not functioning at your best. Testing has shown that sleep deprivation can affect your ability to drive just as much as being drunk i.e. blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.05%.

Drunk driving is not only frowned upon, it’s against the law and can be a matter of life and death. So, what about driving while sleep deprived?!

Sleep deprived while driving

Lack of sleep has a range of effects, including but not limited to:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and deceased motivation,
  • Irritability and moodiness,
  • Impaired cognitive performance (learning, concentration, and memory problems),
  • Reduced problem-solving skills and creativity,
  • Difficulty making decisions,
  • Reduced ability to cope with stress,
  • Difficulty managing emotions,
  • Decreased sex drive (relationship problems),
  • Increased risk of depression,
  • Premature aging,
  • Weakened immune system (frequent colds and infections),
  • Weight gain,
  • Impaired motor skills,
  • Increased risk of accidents,
  • Hallucinations and delirium, and,
  • Increased risk of serious health conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and a range of cancers.

How do you get the sleep that you need?

With all the negative outcomes in mind, the next question would naturally be how do I get enough sleep? Whether you are looking to improve your mood, enhance brain function, or prevent serious health outcomes, there are a range of things that can help. The key is to the find the way/s that best suit you.

Woman sit on bed with air conditioning

Sleep tips:

  • Rule out medical reasons for any sleep issues. This includes physical or mental health issues or side-effects from medication.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. This may include diming the lights, practicing a relaxation technique, or taking a warm bath, while avoiding screens, work, and/or stressful conversations.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to help set your biological clock.
  • Improve your sleep environment. This includes keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and reserving the bed for sleep and sexual activities only.
  • Delay any worrying. This includes writing notes down if you wake up feeling anxious and then handle the issue/worrying the next day when you’re better prepared to resolve it.
  • Seek help for stress management. This includes learning productive ways to handle stress.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. This includes large volumes of liquid, caffeine, alcohol, sugar-rich foods, and heavy meals, which can all affect sleep if consumed close to bedtime.
  • Carry out regular exercise. This includes aiming for the recommended 30 minutes+ of activity most days, but not just before bedtime.

Air conditioning can help with improving your sleep environment, regardless of the type of air conditioner you have. The body needs to cool down in order to enter into sleep. Controlling room temperature with air con has been proven to help us achieve a good night’s sleep.

Is it safe to sleep with air conditioning on?

It’s reasonable to have concerns about the safety of air conditioning, especially if you run the air conditioner all night. While air conditioning can help facilitate sleep, there are some things to consider.

Firstly, sleeping can be difficult when it is too warm because the body must lower its core temperature in order for sleep to start. You can find yourself tossing and turning when it’s too hot, which can further increase body temperature.

It’s also important for staying asleep, especially during REM sleep when internal thermoregulation is switched off, as discussed earlier. With this in mind, not only is it safe to sleep with the AC running, but it may also be essential for a full night’s rest. However, it’s essential that regular air conditioning maintenance is completed to ensure complete benefit.

On the other end of the temperature range for sleep, an air conditioner can heat up a room and maintain a steady temperature to help with deeper sleep cycles. It is much easier for the body to cool down than it is to warm up.

Sleeping in bed with air conditioner

Aside from temperature, other sleep considerations include noise, pests, security, and pollution. All of these may prevent you from opening a window to allow cool night air to enter a room, impacting your sleep. Air con can provide the cooler, conditioned air required without risking disturbance or ill-effect from these factors.

Another consideration is the potential reliance on air conditioning by the human body. Firstly, the tolerance of external heat by the body may be reduced as it becomes used to the aircon-provided temperature. Secondly, the brain can develop an association between air conditioning and sleep, causing a reliance.

However, just as the body and brain can become reliant, they can also adjust back to normal when the air con is switched off, without any lasting impact or damage caused. This allows safe and adequate sleep all year round, with or without an air conditioning system.

If still concerned, you can look at pre-cooling a room, and switching off the air conditioner when going to sleep. You can also use the AC in conjunction with other ways to keep cool.

Alternatively, you may be able to set a sleep timer or sleep mode on the air conditioner unit. This depends on the features an air conditioner has. More about this later.

Can sleeping in air conditioning make you sick?

People sometimes ask if it is bad to sleep with an air conditioner on, with health concerns. It is natural to wonder if air conditioning can make you sick. Aside from the general considerations about health and air conditioning, there are a few specific considerations for sleeping with aircon running.

Air conditioning systems can help manage humidity and moisture that come along with hot and humid nights. AC units can remove excess humidity in the air and resulting moisture in a room, which helps to prevent the growth of mould, mildew, damp, fungi, and pathogenic bacteria.

However, an air conditioner unit must be maintained regularly to ensure it doesn’t have the opposite effect and support the growth of these microbial contaminants! Mould and other organic nasties can thrive without suitable air conditioner maintenance, which could make you sick.

Dirty air conditioner filter

Some people report breathing difficulties at night, thought to be related to air conditioning. Low humidity over an extended period can cause airway irritation, sore throat, blocked nose, and reduced perception of air quality. Excessive airflow can also result in drying of mucous membranes, including those in the nose, mouth, and throat.

People can also experience dry eyes and skin. This is primarily related to excessively low humidity levels over time, as well as airflow.

To help manage these concerns, it is recommended to avoid making the room unnecessarily cold. A temperature setting of around 25 degrees is recommended in cooling mode.

This not only helps your health, but also helps to save money and the environment; Every degree you lower an aircon by increases energy consumption by about 10%! The South Australian Government has a handy tool to help you work out exactly what your aircon use is costing you.

Furthermore, it’s recommended to ensure you have good insulation in your home. This includes in the walls, roof and under the floors. As a result, you won’t have to use the aircon for as long in order to either pre-cool or maintain temperature overnight.

Can baby sleep in air conditioning?

While it is generally safe for adults to sleep in air conditioning, what about babies? Great question.

Children under 1 year of age are less able to regulate their own body temperature, including during sleep. Therefore, babies are more even susceptible to changes in environmental temperature than adults.

It is important to ensure that little ones don’t overheat at night. This can be achieved through a combination of suitable clothing, bedding, covering, sleep position, and room temperature. If using an air conditioner, NSW Health recommends setting it to between 24 and 26 degrees.

Woman holding air conditioning rmeote

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a tragic syndrome with the sudden and unexplained death of a baby. Thermal stress is associated with a numerous risk factors believed to contribute to SIDS. Air conditioning can help manage key risk factors for SIDS include overheating and low ambient temperature.

Air conditioning can help manage thermal stress indoors and most importantly the room in which a baby sleeps. Just ask any normal parent; protecting your children is the most important thing in the world.

What is sleep mode on AC?

Sleep mode is a function on many modern air conditioner units. This is an economic heat/cool setting that automatically adjusts temperature overnight to support sleep.

As discussed, body temperature needs to drop by a few degrees to commence and maintain sleep. However, excessively low temperatures can have negative health impacts. Therefore, Sleep Mode on an air conditioner will increase automatically increase temperature every hour (typically 0.5 – 1 degree), up to a maximum of 3 degrees.

This very slight change won’t be noticed by you while sleeping, yet the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a suitable room temperature. The system also doesn’t have to turn off completely, which could otherwise cause a room to reach an uncomfortably high temperature.

Certain aircon models have a Sleep Mode or Night Set button, typically on the remote controller. You would simply need to press that button when jumping into bed for sleep. You can usually add on an hour to the time by pressing the button again; ever press adds one hour to the timer.

Some air conditioners may not have a sleep mode, but instead have an On/Off Timer (Daikin) or I-Save Mode (Mitsubishi Electric). You can use these to switch the air conditioner off at a certain time. This may be suitable if outside temperatures are not excessive and will reach a reasonable level overnight after a certain period of time.

It is best to refer to the specific brand and model manufacturer handbook or user manual to find out more. The model-specific manual will have more information about the features and how to operate them on your air conditioner unit.

Sleep timer air conditioner

Sleep improvement is now a well-known benefit of air conditioning. An air conditioner can support deeper, longer, and more restful sleep.

Improved sleep in turn has a whole range of benefits including better health, improved mood, and enhanced quality of life. As discussed, a solid night’s sleep is essential for a long, healthy, and happy life.

However, it’s important to remember that the air conditioning system must be cleaned and serviced regularly to ensure a healthy environment is achieved. Otherwise, the AC could contribute to you getting sick.

If you need help selecting, installing, maintaining, or repairing your air conditioner, please don’t hesitate to contact us. An expert can help with your home air conditioner needs to help ensure a good night’s sleep.