Did you know that body temperature affects not only sleep onset, but also sleep quality and time spent in different sleep stages.
It has been found that the temperature of one’s sleeping place, be it the bedroom, undesirable sleeping corners or open spaces can make a significant difference to the person’s sleep quality.
In our last article, I highlighted the fact that one can be deprived of a good night’s sleep by sleeping too hot, feeling stuffy and sweaty or sleeping too cold, feeling freezing and shivering. The deprivation is due to the disruption of the lowering of internal body temperature that is part of the sleep initiation process. When the sun goes down, the darkness signals an internal body clock seated in the brain for switching to sleep mode. In this mode, a brain chemical, melatonin is released which shuts down the alertness messages in the brain.
Also, the signalled clock causes a lowering of the internal body temperature as part of telling the body that it is time for sleep. This temperature drop usually starts a few hours before one falls asleep. During sleep, the body temperature continues to fall reaching its lowest point in the early morning and then gradually warms up as the morning progresses. The body cools itself down for sleep by sending heat away from the internal body compartments through increased blood flow from the inner body compartments to the outer body parts, especially the limbs. So, sleeping in a cool environment with temperatures of 60 to 67° F (15 to 19° C) varying from person to person and also imagining the sleeping corner as one’s ‘cave’ supports falling asleep.
The body temperature affects not only sleep onset, but also sleep quality and the time spent in different sleep stages. A higher internal body temperature has been associated with a decrease in restorative deep sleep and subjective sleep quality at the mid-stage of sleep. This comes with a higher likelihood of waking up after falling asleep. Also, during the last stage of sleep, the body ceases most temperature-regulation behaviours such as sweating or shivering, leaving one more sensitive to environmental temperature changes. Accordingly, excessively hot or cold temperatures appear to lessen the time spent in this last stage. In addition to causing sleepiness the next day, a decrease in mid and last-sleep stages can negatively impact bodily physical health, as well as learning, memory, and other processes.
Furthermore, there is some age variation in good sleep temperature.
The infants and elderly may benefit from a sleep environment that’s one or two degrees warmer than that of average adults. These extremes of age are more sensitive to changes in temperature. The infants’ bodies are smaller and still developing with less fat deposits under the skin, and similarly, the elderly’s under-the-skin fat deposits are thin. So, to have them sleep in an environment with a suitable temperature, use sleep wears that will ensure a favourable temperature and avoid indiscriminate heavy blankets or multiple layers. The caregivers such as the parents and relatives should monitor the baby’s and elderly’s temperature during the night by touching the stomach or the back of the neck and adjusting the clothing and coverings as needed to ensure that they are not sweaty and feeling stuffy from sleeping too hot or feeling freezing and shivering from sleeping too cold.
Considering the need for suitable body temperature for quality sleep, there are suggested tips on how to optimize our environment temperature for sleeping. For bedrooms especially in hot weather, we should close the blinds to reduce heat build-up during the day, put on light sleep wears which can absorb sweat easily, and use a fan or air conditioning, if available. Also, in bedrooms during cold nights or sleeping outdoors, we should use thick sleep clothes and coverings to wall off the excessive coldness. Additionally, we would achieve desired temperature regulation and reduce sweating by using quality sleeping surfaces including mattresses, sheets, duvets and pillows which have high heat capacity, delayed increase in sleeping surface temperature and increases conductive body heat loss and the sleep mid-stage characterized by deep sleep.
Let’s endeavor to be deliberate in seeking & investing in quality mattresses, sheets and pillows conducive to an optimum sleep temperature and a supportive sleeping experience.
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