How Temperature Can Mess With Your Sleep (Or Improve It!)



Anyone who has braved a heat wave with no air conditioning (or a frigid January with a radiator on the fritz) knows how extremes in temperature can ruin bedtime. But even small shifts can mean the difference between a smooth transition into dreamland or a fitful night’s sleep.

The common recommendation for a good ambient temperature for sleeping is in the range of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. The end goal isn’t to feel cold but to lower your core temperature (your body’s internal temperature).

Your core temperature naturally falls in preparation for sleep. But if you help that along, it will be easier for you to fall asleep more quickly and deeply.

Keep your bedroom comfortably cool

Ideally your bedroom should be in the mid-60s, but if that range feels too cool or too warm for you, experiment with small adjustments to your thermostat or use a fan or space heater to change the temperature.

Wear socks if you have cold feet

Your feet are rich in blood vessels, so your skin and core temperature there affect the temperature of the rest of your body.

Wearing socks made of breathable materials (cotton, wool) warms the skin, which signals the brain that it’s time to sleep. It also brings blood flow and heat to the skin’s surface; heat then dissipates into the air, cooling the core.

As a result, you may fall asleep a little faster and spend more time in deep sleep; in one experiment, foot warming was especially effective at helping older adults sleep more deeply.

Take a warm shower or bath before bed

A few minutes of contact with warm water raises the temperature of your skin, and that causes your core to shed heat and cool down. You may then fall asleep more readily and experience deeper sleep. Scientists call this “the bath effect.”

Do this an hour or two before you typically go to sleep.

Dress your bed in layers

Sleep is a dynamic enterprise. You may be conked out, but your blood flow, hormone levels, and nerve-cell activity are still constantly shifting, and that affects how hot or cold you feel.

Keep an extra sheetblanket, and comforter on or by your bed. If draftiness makes your room colder in the winter, or if you prefer not to use air conditioning in the summer, adjust your bedding to the season.

Stick to breathable natural fibers like cotton or linen for sheets and cotton or wool for blankets. Opt for comforters with a cotton cover and feather filling.

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