Ideal Sleeping Temperature
Are you a "stick your leg out" kind of person? Or a "wear socks to bed" kind of person? Does it depend on the season? Do you know what your "ideal" sleeping temperature is?
A comfortable environment is essential to getting healthy sleep. Sleeping comfort makes immediate sense from a mattress and pillow perspective. But equally important is sleeping at a temperature that promotes sleep, which is usually colder than we realise.
Why is temperature critical? And why a cooler temperature?
Movement creates heat
Muscle mass makes up a large part of our overall body mass. When muscles contract (and food digests), our muscles create a lot of chemical energy that gets released as heat. As we stop moving, our temperature drops a bit.
As we fall asleep, our body experiences a drop in temperature. This is because in deep sleep we are often paralysed, and so we have no apparent muscle activity. This paralysis is a standard "safety feature" our brain uses to - in most people - keep us from acting out our dreams. A side effect of this paralysis is that we have a drop in temperature.1
This fall in temperature is something our body and brain associates with sleep because they happen uniquely at the same time during sleep. We also associate this drop in temperature with increased melatonin secretion at cooler body temperatures.2
A warm bath to cool down?
We can help ourselves achieve this drop in temperature by following a little bit of common sense folklore! It works - but not for the reason we think!
My grandmother always said a warm bath will help me relax before bed. Taking a warm bath may help us sleep better because it's relaxing. But biologically what a warm bath does is help create an artificially high body temperature. Afterward, when you get out of the bath, your body will be able to release that heat through your skin and quickly cool itself.
Taking a bath is an artificial way of creating that drop in body temperature that we associate with sleep. You can do this by exercising as well however exercise also raises other hormone levels that can interfere with sleep too close to bedtime.
Benefits of a cool room
A cool room may help you not only fall asleep but have better sleep. We can regulate our body temperatures better in cooler rooms. Being cooler may help you cycle through REM stages of sleep, as small cycles in temperature are associated with moving from REM to non-REM sleep. After waking up, you might feel more refreshed, relaxed, and energetic than if you slept in a warmer room.1,3
Sleeping in a room with temperature as low as 66 degrees Fahrenheit can help people with metabolic syndromes, especially diabetes. There is evidence that people sleeping in a cool place with total darkness have an increased amount of good fat (brown fat). Brown fat is associated with lower risks of metabolic syndromes.2
Sleeping in a cool room causes an increase in the secretion of growth hormones and a decrease in the flow of cortisol, ensuring healthy sleep patterns and reduced anxiety and hunger.4
Temperature and mood
Sleeping in a cool room may also help with your mood because sleeping at lower temperatures stimulates the release of serotonin.1
Serotonin acts as a mood enhancer and is also involved in promoting sleep, so sleeping in a cooler room might not only help you sleep better but wake up feeling happier and less anxious.
So what is a good room temperature? An ideal temperature is around 18 degrees Celsius or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Too low and you will get too chilled and wake up. Too hot and you'll keep waking up to stick a leg out!3
What is the temperature of your bedroom at night? Do you sleep cold or sleep hot? How do you manage your sleeping temperature?
Do you find your sleep is impacted by the change of seasons?