Control your temperature when you sleep
At the moment the weather is going crazy! One moment it is cold and the next it is warm again. You go to bed at night in your winter pj’s and when you get up it feels like summer. So that night you go to bed in only your boxer and a wifey, or a small negligee and then you wake up freezing in the middle of the night. It is the perfect weather to pick up a cold or the flu. Believe me, I know. This weather has my sleeping patterns, and subsequently my health, in a shambles. Do you feel the same way? Are you also struggling with midnight sweats and early morning chills? If that is the case, read on as we explore various ways for you to better control your bedtime temperature.
First thing’s first. Make absolutely sure that your room is the right temperature when you go to bed. Sleeping in too cold, or too hot a room makes for a bad nights’ sleep. And for bad dreams… That is not even a joke friends. I’m sure most of you have heard of the fact that people star hallucinating when they get feverish? Some of you might even have experienced it! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to enlighten you with a story from my past:
Once upon a time, I lived in a flat on the fourth floor of an apartment building. At one stage during my tenure, I got really sick. My entire body was shaking, my lips were tingling and then they went numb. But the worst part of it all was the fever. It would come and go. Waves of hot flashes followed by extreme cold. It was terrible. My bedroom was too warm for me, so I crept out into the living room, opened all the windows and doors and lied down on the cold tile floor. In my feverish state, I saw people climbing into the flat through the fourth floor windows. I constantly had conversations with people that weren’t there and at one stage it felt like I was outside of my body and taking part in the post mortem a lot of doctors we doing on me.
So what? What does this have to do with sleep?
I can understand that you are questioning my sanity right now and wondering if I am having yet another fever. But you can rest assured; I am completely sober right now. The thing is, when you are too hot while you sleep, you might experience similar symptoms to what I described above. Surely you’ve had some bad dreams from which you woke in a cold sweat? That sweat doesn’t come from the dream. It is the other way around. Because you are so warm and sweaty, your brain starts conjuring up all sorts of weird, wonderful and oft times horrifying ideas. So if you want to avoid having bad dreams all the time, you should really start sleeping at the right temperatures.
But how? What should I do to ensure optimum sleeping temperature?
That is a good question. One that’s been asked many times before, so lucky for us we don’t have to try to figure it out all by ourselves. In fact, if you just keep on reading this blog post, you will hear (see) some interesting ideas on how to regulate your body temperature while you sleep.
Maybe you’ve read up on it before? Or maybe you just know people that know things and they told you how to do it. And maybe you just keep on shivering yourself awake in the early morning. Either way, I’m sure we can help you to get over that. Let’s take a look at what sleep experts say on the matter:
Light plays an important role in regulating body temperature
It always comes back to light it would seem. If you follow our blog, you would have seen that we like to write about light. But the fact of the matter is that the amount and type of light you take in plays a key role in regulating your sleep rhythm. We should all know by now that looking at blue light after sunset is not ideal if you want to sleep soundly. That is why I am using a blue light filter when I work at night. You should give it a go and see if the quality of your sleep improves.
But okay, why and how does light have anything to do with your body temperature at night? The light guides your circadian rhythm. When the sun goes up that blue light tells your body to wake up. Similarly, when it goes down the supposed lack of blue light should tell your body that it is time for bed. And here is how it connects to temperature; when our bodies start getting ready for sleep, it slowly starts losing heat. How cool is that?
As the night wears on, our body temperature keeps on dropping through the night until, sometime in the early morning it starts picking up again. It is quite usual to wake up when you are at your coldest (early morning shivers), or when you start heating up nicely (sweaty nightmares). But you should be able to avoid both of these experiences, so as to improve the quality of your sleep.
Why do we lose heat at night?
Scientists are still not sure about this. Some of them suggest that it gives our metabolic systems time to relax and restart (your metabolism is at least 10% less effective when you sleep at night). Others suggest that the drop in body temperature is to synchronise your endocrine system and to make sure that your liver and kidneys perform optimally. But none of these theories have been proven to be one hundred percent true.
What happens if we do not lose body heat when we go to bed?
Some studies show that insomnia can be coupled with being too hot or too cold. And it makes sense, if you just think about what you’ve read so far, you will see that temperature is key to having a good nights’ rest. To improve your chances of falling sleep quickly, don’t take an exclusively ice cold shower before bed, because this will shock your body into being awake.
Surprisingly, there are some sleep experts that suggest we should take a mixed shower before bed. Start with a warm shower, not boiling hot, mind you. Just nice and warm. Then slowly make the water colder until it is difficult for you to stand under the stream of water. The experts that support this idea says that the gradual transition from warm to cold is similar to the one your body would naturally follow when it gets ready for bed. So in a way you are just speeding up the process of getting yourself in that sweet spot of being cooler than normal. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to look (and feel) cool when they go to bed?
You should also avoid doing strenuous exercise before you hit the hay. This can also push your core body temperature up and make it hard to fall asleep. Rather do some relaxing stretches or breathing exercises to prepare for a night of restorative sleep.
Should I sleep in a warm or cold room?
Neither. You should sleep in a coolish room, but it shouldn’t be too cold. For reasons we’ve already discussed, a warm room is also not ideal. The best temperatures to have your bedroom at when you go to bed is somewhere around 18 degrees Celsius, says sleep expert Dr. Christopher Winter. Under these temperature conditions your body will naturally and easily cool off, without losing heat too fast or trying to combat the heat.
So how do you keep your room cool?
You should try to regulate the amount of sunlight that comes into your room. If your room faces toward the sun, planting a deciduous tree in front of the window might be a good plan. This is a long term solution, as the tree won’t be able to instantly block out all the sun that radiates into your room. But in the long run it is definitely a good option. Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the winter, so during summer the tree will block out the unwelcome sunlight and keep your room cool. And then, come winter, the leaves fall off and the sun can penetrate through the branches into your room, to add some heat to the frigid room.
So after you planted your tree, or if you live high up in an apartment building, get a thick set of blinds or curtains. If the sun shines too brightly into your room, you can block some of its radiation by closing your blinds or curtains. You don’t have to keep the curtains/blinds drawn all day, but if you spend most of your day out of the house anyway, blocking out the warm sun with closed curtains won’t do any harm. Once the sun has set, open your windows to allow the cool air to freshen up your room.
Not a fan of my old school suggestions?
If you prefer more modern ways, you can always install a ceiling fan or air conditioning. It is probably a fair bit more pricey than planting a tree or putting up curtains, but hey! If you have the money and you want to sleep better at night, go for it! You can even get a stand fan if you are on a bit of a budget. It has the added bonus of waving off the unwanted mosquito’s! One thing I found when sleeping with fans or air conditioning is that I tend to cool off too quickly and then I shiver myself awake. This is obviously counter productive, so if you sleep with a fan or AC, just have an extra blanky ready!