Approximately 30% of Americans suffer from problems either falling asleep or staying asleep (see How to fall asleep tips). Some toss hopelessly in bed for sometimes hours, trying to will a reluctant body to go to sleep. Others have no problem getting to sleep, but they’re wide awake in just a few, too-short hours. Sleep disorder centers have become a new industry trying to trace out the problems with people’s sleep patterns, and one of their discoveries is a surprise to some. The diagnosis? Uncomfortable room temperature.
Normal Temperature for Sleep
You may think this is crazy. You’re not cold. You’re not hot. What’s the deal? But the physiology if it is that when you go to sleep, your system slows down and cools off. It’s an internal thermostat that turns down when your body isn’t “being used”. Your body has its own temperature set point at which it rests the best. If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, your body may have a hard time reaching this sit point.
Temperature Induces Sleep
These studies have continued to show that dropping your body temperature will actually induce sleep. It’s not a lot, so don’t try an icy shower in the hopes of lowering your body temperature so you can sleep. It’s just a little bit, but it causes the body to reset it’s thermostat for the night, and “gear down” for rest. If the room becomes too hot or cold, it will wake your body up.
Most people wake up between 5 to 7 times every night, and don’t even realize it. However, if the room is the wrong temperature, when you wake up you won’t be able to fall back asleep. The comfort of the temperature also affects your REM. This is the sleep stage in which you dream, and it’s said to be the most necessary for your rest. Poor REM sleep makes you exhausted when you wake up. Good, deep, long lasting REM sleep makes you feel rested and refreshed. If your bedroom is too hot or cold, it disrupts the dream cycle, and you don’t rest as well.
What is the Right Temperature for Sleep?
Unfortunately, there is no right temperature recommended for all people. It is subjective. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says you should think of your bedroom as if it were a cave—dark, cool, and quiet. Memory foam mattresses and pillows may feel nice, but they’ll make you hot. Also, if you’re prone to cold feet, wear socks. Cold feet will torture you away several times a night. You might also, as geeky as it may seem, consider a nightcap. Most of the body’s heat escapes through the skull, and a nightcap may keep you warm enough to sleep the entire night.