The Rumor: Warm temperatures lead to poor sleep
Flannel pajamas on? Check. Space heater plugged in? Check. Wool blanket up to my neck? Check. When the temperature drops in wintertime, it can be tempting to pull out all the stops at bedtime to keep the chilly outdoor weather at bay. So how come I can’t sleep when I’m all bundled up in bed?
The Verdict: Colder temps help you sleep, even in winter
Turns out, even in the dead of winter, it’s ideal to keep your body temperature down to get the best sleep at night. “The temperature of your sleep environment can affect how long, and how well, you sleep,” says certified clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle, RN. “A lower core body temperature initiates sleepiness. Since our bedroom temperature affects our body temperature, a cooler room temperature can help to promote sleep.”
Still, this doesn’t mean you have to open the windows and shiver in an undershirt and boxer shorts to get a good night’s rest. Even though there are individual temperature variations and personal preferences, the optimal temperaturefor sleeping is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit — a far cry from setting up ski conditions in the bedroom. “Temperatures in this range help to facilitate the mild drop in core body temperature that is sleep promoting,” says Cralle.
Research on those who have difficulties with the sandman backs this up. Our natural body temperature has a 24-hour rhythm that goes down at night to trigger the onset of sleep. Experts suggest that a hot sleeping environment may lead to lighter sleep. In fact, recent sleep findings indicate that temperature-regulation problems are often associated with poor Z’s.
So what are some ways to keep your body at its comfiest, most drowse-inducing state?
Take a warm bath. About 60 minutes before you turn in, take a dip to help you sleep. “The bath increases your core body temperature, and when it abruptly drops when you get out of the bath, your body feels ready for sleep,” says Cralle. I’ve witnessed this with my own eyes with my energetic 3-year-old. No rendition of Goodnight Moon compares to a warm nighttime bath to get him to sleep. I just never knew the science-backed explanation until now.
Pay attention to the fabric of pajamas and bedding materials. If you’re overheating in bed, lose the winter-loving materials (such as wool or tightly woven flannel bedding) that lock in warmth, says Cralle. Go for lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton, which let out some heat to keep you cool.
Care for your tootsies. Finally, while a cool room can be the secret to better sleep, ice-cold extremities are not. “Normal sleepers may experience a temperature drop in their hands and feet before sleep,” says Cralle. She recommends that those with cold feet try wearing socks to bed. “This will help dilate blood vessels to improve circulation to your toes and promote sleep onset.”
So next time you’re can’t sleep, try turning down the air, even if it’s cold outside. Rest well!