A good nights sleep is essential – but how does room temperature affect the quality of sleep? Some research points to the fact that colder rooms are more likely to give a more refreshing nights sleep.
Do We Sleep Better In a Cold Room?
Are we really likely to sleep better in a cold room than a warm one? Although the theory is often considered an old wives’ tale, there is actually some truth to it.
Furthermore, sleeping in a cold room doesn’t just help us humans to sleep better, it can provide additional benefits too.
Sleep is necessary for optimum physical and mental health. Anything that disrupts it, be it room temperature, snoring, or overuse of caffeine can have a severe effect on quality of life and may make us ill.
Heart disease and obesity are just two of many conditions that are more likely to become a problem for people who do not get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can also disrupt concentration and other important cognitive functions and may severely reduce reaction times. This can greatly increase the risk of accidents.
If you doubt this, you may be surprised to learn research shows lack of sleep can greatly increase people’s chances of crashing their cars.
Sleep deprivation is also one of the leading causes of industrial accidents. Sleeping in a cold room is just one of many steps you can take to optimize your sleeping environment and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
How Cold Does a Bedroom Need to Be?
The good news is, you don’t need to maintain a bedroom temperature that’s so low it makes your teeth chatter. Sleep experts say the best temperature for a bedroom is 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 – 19.4 degrees Celsius).
As you sleep, your body temperature falls naturally. When you sleep in a sufficiently cold room. It stimulates the body in a favorable way, preps it for sleep, and makes it easier to cycle through the stages of sleep.
When the temperature of the room is too hot (or too cold) it can disrupt the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This is highly undesirable because REM is an important restorative level of sleep. Any disruption to REM sleep can cause you to feel tired and groggy the following day.
It’s not just about how many hours sleep you get, in order to function at normal capacity, the human body needs to get a sufficient amount of quality (REM) sleep.
Even if you have slept eight hours or more, if you fail to attain or sustain sufficient REM sleep, you could spend your waking hours feeling tired and out of sorts.
Sleep and Melatonin: The Cold, Hard Truth
As you may be aware, melatonin is the sleep hormone. It plays an important role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin production within the body increases as daylight levels dwindle. This causes feelings of weariness and helps orient the body’s circadian rhythm.
Research shows temperatures that average in the 60 – 67 degree range encourage the body to produce more melatonin. This is, of course, one of the main reasons we sleep better in a suitably cold room.
Anything that retards melatonin production, be it bright electric lights or an overly high room thermostat, has the potential to interfere with sleep.
That’s why there is a lot to be said for maintaining less generous levels of heat throughout our homes on an evening, dimming the lights, and trying to relax before bed.
Chill Out and Reap the Benefits
These days, it’s incredibly easy to control our living and work environments. We can ramp up the heat of a room during the winter and bring the temperature down in the summer. All we have to do is head for a control box or pick up a remote control.
Although it’s great to be able to optimize the room temperature in this way, it can also bring its fair share of problems. Many people who struggle with fatigue throughout the day may find optimizing the evening room temperature in their homes makes a big difference to the quality of their lives.
As already touched upon earlier in this article, during sleep our body temperatures drop to help ease us through the various stages of sleep. Lowering environmental temperatures can help us to drift off to sleep more quickly and get the maximum REM benefits.
When there are no outside influences to present problems, physiological changes generally come into play 60 – 90 minutes before we fall asleep.
We start losing heat from the body’s central core and, although we are unlikely to pay be aware of what is going on, this drop in temperature can make us start to feel tired.
If your room is not cold enough during this pre-sleep period, your body will be forced to work harder to regulate its temperature. This wastes energy and interferes with your ability to go to sleep.
Additional Benefits of Sleeping in a Cold Room
We’ve already looked at the reasons why people sleep better in a room that’s suitably cold, but that’s only part of the story. There are other reasons why you should consider avoiding sleeping in a room that’s too hot.
May Help You to Lose Weight
Environmental temperatures influence metabolism. One of the ways temperatures do this is by increasing levels of brown adipose tissue (BAT).
BAT is a desirable form of body fat that helps us process energy efficiently and burn the white adipose tissue (WAT) that makes us overweight.
It’s not necessary to understand the relationship between BAT and WAT to benefit from the way these two types of body fat interact but it is important not to be become overly excited by the revelation.
Although sleeping in a cold room may boost your metabolism and help you benefit from more BAT, benefits will only be forthcoming if your diet is right.
May Provide Anti-Aging Benefits
When you maintain a room temperature that is optimized to support sound sleep, it may also help you retain a youthful look for longer. This primarily due to the relationship between environment and melatonin.
As well as being a sleep inducer, melatonin is a potent anti-aging hormone.
Research suggests melatonin may also offer protection against UV-induced skin aging.
May Help Prevent Disease
Going to sleep in a cold room may also reduce the risk of certain diseases, including type-2 diabetes. This is directly related to the potential increases in BAT.
BAT increases insulin sensitivity and, in so doing, lowers the risk of diabetes. Colder temperatures offer further help in this regard by supporting efficient glucose disposal.
Some research suggests sleeping in a cold room may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease and aging of the brain.
This is a melatonin-related benefit. As well as being a sleep hormone, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and support good mental health.
May Reduce Breathing Disorders
Lowering the room temperature may also help to control sleep related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea.
May Enhance the Mood and Reduce Stress
Sleeping in a cold room can help you to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed. By supporting good sleep in this way, it helps you maintain a better state of mind and be less susceptible to stress.
Ways to Keep Cool at Night – So You Can Sleep Better
One of the best ways to reduce the temperature in your room is to turn down the temperature on your room thermostat or switch the heating off.
If the temperature is naturally high due to climatic conditions, an air conditioner can help bring some extra chill to your room. Just avoid the temptation to turn the temperature too low.
No air conditioning? That’s not ideal if you live in a hot climate but there are still some things you can do.
One thing you can try is adding a gel-filled cooling mattress topper to your bed.
Normal mattresses often absorb heat from your body and trap it beneath you, making you feel warmer. A good cooling mattress topper can help prevent this from happening and keep you cool while you sleep.
Placing an electric fan in your room can also be beneficial. Fans aid air circulation and help evaporate sweat from the body. They often work best when placed near an open window so they can draw fresh air into the room.
Sleeping naked is another good way to avoid becoming too hot in bed. If your room is very warm, you may want to sleep above the covers instead of under them.
If you have a partner, it’s also a good idea to avoid snuggling close to them. It will only encourage a sharing of body heat that may disrupt sleep.
Drinking a glass of cold water before going to bed is another good way to try and keep cool. Ice-water can be especially good. It will help cool you down from the inside.
Why Do We Sleep Better In a Cold Room – Summary
We all need sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep or fail to spend enough time in the REM stage, it can cause fatigue, affect or mood, interfere with cognitive function, and make us more susceptible to disease.
Reducing the temperature of our sleep space is a pre-sleep step that’s easy for most of us to take. With so much to gain, it’s a step you may want to take today.