How to regulate body temperature throughout the night to get the sleep you need
Ever tried to fall asleep in a bedroom that’s too warm? It’s a struggle. A big struggle. The reason? Our Core Body Temperature (CBT) is tied to our ability to sleep, which means as our need for sleep increases, our bodies naturally cool. Being in a room that’s too warm can inhibit this natural process, making falling asleep a challenge. As well, overheating during sleep can lead to a problematic and disruptive night’s sleep. Never fun.
But exactly how cool should your bedroom be? What impact does temperature have on the quality of your sleep? You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers.
How Core Body Temperature (CBT) impacts sleep
According to 2017 research that studied how warmer temperatures can impact sleep, “Normal sleep-wake cycles are governed by circadian rhythms – automatic biological processes that follow a 24-hour clock –and thermoregulation is a critical determinant of both falling asleep and staying asleep.”
Thermoregulation is the process that slowly drops your CBT in the evenings to signal that it’s time to get ready for sleep. And in the early morning, as the time to wake approaches, thermoregulation gently nudges your body temperature back up again so you’re ready for action.
Knowing how thermoregulation works to prepare your body for sleep can help you make decisions about when to exercise, take a hot bath or go for a cool dip in a pool – so you don’t lose sleep over it.
The impact of hot temperatures on quality of sleep
As you sleep (or try to fall asleep) your body needs to shed heat and cool itself down. When your sleep environment prevents this – whether the thermostat is set too high, the weather is hot and humid, or your bedding is too warm – sleep quality can be affected in a couple different ways.
- Sleep efficiency. This is the ratio of total time spent asleep in a night compared to the total amount of time spent in bed. When higher temperatures disrupt sleep, your sleep efficiency score is reduced because of you’re spending more time tossing and turning and less time sleeping.
- Sleep stages. According to Michael J Breus Ph.D., warm temperatures “diminish time spent in slow-wave sleep and REM sleep, when the body does critical work to rejuvenate and restore itself, from repairing cells and strengthening its immune system to processing memory emotions. Exposure to very warm and humid ambient temperatures can limit your body’s chance to do this important work.”
It’s no surprise that quality of sleep can be impaired since sleeping in a too-warm room causes your body to fight against its natural processes. So, what can you do to prevent sleep loss due to heat?
Avoid skipping beats in your circadian rhythm by sleeping smart
If the temperature in your bedroom is keeping you wide awake, there are some simple ways to get your circadian rhythm back on beat.
- Invest in a supportive mattress. Just like your running shoes are performance gear for working out, your mattress is performance gear for sleep. And if your mattress is substandard, it won’t matter how peaceful or beautiful your bedroom is after a night of not sleeping.
- Get the right sheets, pillows and blankets. Breathable, soft bedding will make your great mattress even better. Learn how to find the best sheets for your bed.
- Choose comfortable sleepwear. Thick, fleece pajamas may be cozy while watching Netflix but they’ll cause overheating throughout the night. Breathable is important here too – or just go naked. There’s solid science behind sleeping in the buff.
- Cool down your body. Exercise can help you sleep better, but a strenuous workout right before bed raises your CBT, so workout in the afternoon. The same goes for hot baths, hot tubs, saunas and anything else that heats you up. Ensure you have enough time after finishing for thermoregulation to do its job and cool you down in time to sleep, usually 2-3 hours before bed.
- Turn the thermostat down. But not too far. The ideal bedroom temperature varies from person to person, but sleep researchers agree that temperatures outside of 54-75F (12-23C) negatively impact your sleep.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
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