I’m pretty sure that after today, everyone in South Africa knows that winter is here. Last night when I got in bed, it took forever to fall asleep and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was keeping me awake! And then it hit me. I was cold. There was a duvet on the bed and my wife was snuggling up to me. But still, I was cold. So I had to make a plan to get warm. And that’s what I did. I got out of bed and put some thick woolly socks on to make my feet warm. And lo and behold, as soon as my feet warmed up, I drifted off into dreamland.
So if you are struggling to sleep, maybe you should check if your bed is warm enough. You should also make sure that you are warm enough when you get into bed. Not too warm, mind. It is even more difficult to fall asleep when your body is overheated than when your body is cold.
Warm up your bed
Invest in a proper duvet or down comforter
First things first. Do you have a good duvet or down comforter on your bed? If not, get one! There is nothing quite as satisfying as getting in bed and snuggling into a comfortable, fat duvet! Duvet’s and comforters come in different weights and sizes. For winter you should choose a heavier one, because they trap the heat in your bed more effectively. And let’s be honest, sleeping in a heat trap during the cold winter months is preferable to sleeping cold.
Use thick, winter sheets
After getting that heavy down comforter, the next step is to get the winter sheets out of the linen cupboard. It is definitely time to put the light summer sheets away and get out those flannel or woolen sheets. Both flannel and wool are good at insulating heat. This means that once your body heat has radiated out into the sheets, it will stay there and take active part in keeping you warm. You will lose heat to the environment around you much slower through wool or flannel sheets than through flimsy summer linen.
Get a warm water bottle
Hot water bottles might be a tad old fashioned, but let’s face it, they work! Actually, I am sitting with a warm water bottle on my lap at this very instant. It is such an effective way to radiate heat and warmth through the body. The best part is, when I go to bed I can take it with me and tuck it in down where my feet goes. In no time, the sheets will be warm and my feet won’t have the same problem that they had last night.
To make the hot water bottle even more comfortable and effective, get a woolen sleeve for it. If you don’t want to carry it around before bed (like me), just heat up some water, pour it into the bottle and tuck the bottle into your bed to heat it up in advance.
Invest in an electrical blanket
Sure, they use electricity. But they also make getting in bed on a cold night so much more desirable. Nowadays you can get all sorts of fancy electrical blankets that have self timers and what not. So you can pick and choose from a wide variety to get the one that best suits your bedroom colours. Just be careful not to forget the blanket on when you go to sleep, because it might end up overheating the bed. This in turn will probably have you waking up all sweaty sometime in the middle of the night.
In essence, just read the instructions and follow them when you get an electrical blanket.
Stack some pillows around your head
Although we do not lose half of our body heat through our heads, as many people seem to believe… We still lose enough heat through our heads to make it worth while to try to insulate the head. Building a shelter with pillows is one way to keep the warmth in and the chills out. If you have space on your bed, and extra pillows, try it out! Build a little head fort with your extra pillows tonight and see if it makes a difference. It doesn’t work for everyone, as some people tend to roll around a lot while they sleep. These rough sleepers tend to break down their protective pillow barrier sometime during the night. But hey, you will never know if you don’t try it, right!?
Warm up your body
Wear socks to bed
Some people don’t like sleeping with their socks on, but I can assure you, the pros outweigh the cons! Let’s approach this problem logically. If you have cold feet, you struggle to fall asleep. The opposite is also true; warm feet improve the rapid onset of sleep (this has been scientifically proven). If your feet are at a comfortable temperature, the blood circulates more freely through them.
So in other words, warm socks means no cold feet. Plus if you wake up at night and you have to go to the loo, those icy tiles won’t chill you to the bone. And if you get too warm, you can always just remove the socks. Your feet will be warm and with blood flowing freely through your feet, you’ll be back to dreamland and rest in no time. My wife is so good at removing socks while she sleeps, she doesn’t even wake up from it anymore. You could also become like her – a sock remover ninja.
Wear warm pajamas
Wearing the right pajamas to bed in winter is quite important. I know some of you prefer to sleep in boxers and a vest, but having on a loosely fitting pair of flannel pajamas might improve your sleep dramatically. Why do I say your pj’s should be loose? Simply because when you sleep you might toss and turn. Being inhibited or constrained by your choice of pj’s won’t be good for your rest meter. Besides, wearing boxers and a vest is all good and well, but what do you do if you have to go to the toilet in the middle of the night? You’ll freeze. That’s what you’ll do… So, opt for a nice coloured pair of flannel winter pj’s this year. It might save you a trip to the doctor.
Do some relaxing stretches before bed
Breathing deeply and relaxing your muscles is a good way to prepare for bed. Even in winter. You don’t have to roll out your yoga mat and light the incense. But stretching your back, neck and thigh muscles just to get that blood circulating properly through your body serves two purposes; It warms up your body and it sets you up for a good night’s rest. As we’ve already mentioned, having good blood circulation makes you fall asleep fast. So why wouldn’t you stretch before bed? Take five minutes, regulate your breathing and lose some of the tension from your back and neck. And then, once your in bed, you’ll be drifting off to sleep before you can blink your eyes.
Put on a beanie
If it’s really cold out, why not put on a snug fitting beanie? If you can try to block the cold with a stack of pillows around your head, why not block it with a warm layer of wool around your head? A beanie is probably more effective at keeping out the cold than a heap of pillows, and it might be more comfortable too. But once again, sleeping with a beanie is not for everyone. It might help you fall asleep initially, but then it might also wake you up sometime in the night, with sweat soaked hair plastered to your forehead. Normally waking up with a sweat soaked brow is not my thing. It will go hand in hand with strange dreams as well. So think it through before you jump in bed with a beanie on.
On the other hand, if you are going camping in the middle of winter (who does that!?), a beanie can become your best friend.
Take a warm bath before bed
When you prepare for bed, it might be a good idea to take a warm shower or bath before you put on that new pair of flannel pajamas. The bath will relax your muscles and increase blood flow throughout the body. I think by now you get the picture; blood flow is important. So even if you are rushed to get in bed and you don’t have time to take a pampered bubble bath, just hop in the shower quickly to warm up. Especially if you come in out of the cold after a long night. A shower will do wonders for you! It will make you fall asleep faster and when you wake up, you’ll feel well rested, not to mention clean.
Have a cup of herbal tea
Not directly before bed, mind you. Experts say that you should try to avoid drinking anything at least an hour before you get into bed. So don’t have your cup of rooibos just before you jump into bed. Rather have it an hour before you go to bed. This can be the start of your “get to bed” routine. Boil the kettle, pour the tea, smell the aroma as it wafts up from the cup/teapot… Doesn’t it sound relaxing to you? And if you don’t like rooibos tea, that’s not a problem. There are hundreds of different herbal tea infusions that you can try out. Chamomile tea, lavender tea, lemon grass tea, Valerian tea… The list goes on.
If you want to get some ideas on which teas to drink and which not to drink before bedtime, check out this blog post!
Keep a cool room
Even though our bodies and our beds must be warm when we go to bed, our rooms should be cool. Not chilly or cold, but cool. Research shows that going to bed in a cool room improves the rate at which you fall asleep. It night sound a bit counter intuitive, but our bodies lose temperature when we sleep. Sleeping in a cool room improves our rest rates and helps us to feel more refreshed when we wake up. But don’t go leaving your windows open now and tell your doctor that I said you should do it! Just crack a window for five minutes before bed time, so that the room temperature drops by a degree or two. Nothing more is needed.
Something cool about sleeping in a cool room, it apparently helps you fight insomnia! So for those insomniacs out there, try dropping the heat before you go to bed tonight.
I hope you find these tips useful and that it improves the quality of your sleep this winter! Sleep well, keep a cool room and a hot body!