Is cold weather good for sleep?

As we endure the coldest temperatures on record, we’re asking how the climate impacts our sleep

According to the MET office, recent weeks have marked the coldest UK temperatures for 25 years, with Braemar in Aberdeenshire experiencing lows of -23C. These chilly days and nights can have an impact on every aspect of our routine, including how well we sleep.

The temperature of our surroundings can play a significant role in the quality and quantity of our sleep. Understanding this relationship can help you take the steps necessary to enjoying a better night’s rest. With that in mind, we’re here to explore this connection further. Let’s take a look.

The relationship between temperature and sleep

Both excessive heat and excessive cold can have a negative impact on your sleep. When a room is too hot, you’re more likely to experience restless sleep that includes frequent bouts of waking. This can lead to a decrease in deep sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, meaning you’ll wake up feeling less rested than you normally would. Humidity can also have an impact, as it can contribute to sleep problems.

Similarly, extremely cold environments can also impact your sleep, but in a different way. The cold is less likely to disrupt your sleep once you’re already asleep, but it can make it more difficult to drift off in the first place. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, semi-nude participants found that their sleep was more impacted by cold temperatures than warm ones.

Our environment is a key factor in determining sleep quality

Temperature is key to good rest, and cooler environments are generally considered the most desirable. In fact, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that four out of five people consider a cool room temperature to be an important factor in helping them sleep comfortably.

According to the Sleep Foundation, the optimum bedroom temperature is around 18.3 degrees Celsius, or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This may vary from person to person, but it’s widely recommended that a temperature between 15.6 and 19.4C is most comfortable for sleep.

Our bodies are programmed to experience a dip in core temperature in the evening, so gradually cooling down your environment can help to signal to your body that it is time for bed.

How to improve your sleep in winter

When the weather outside is bitterly cold, you might be tempted to sleep with the thermostat turned way up. However, this is not a good idea. As we’ve already mentioned, coolers temperatures are generally thought to be best for sleep, and sleeping with your heating on can affect the air quality, reduce moisture, and cause you to get uncomfortably warm as you sleep.

Another temptation during the winter is to hibernate indoors, and avoid the outside world at all cost. However, a little fresh air can go a long way when it comes to improving your sleep quality. Whether it’s a run, a bike ride, an outdoor workout or even just a brisk walk, taking the time to move around outdoors will make you feel more ready for bed when evening rolls around.

Be mindful of the food and drink you eat when the weather’s cold. We tend to be more lenient on ourselves in winter when it comes to diet, but common comfort foods like salty snacks and rich pastries can have an impact on how you sleep, especially when eaten late at night.

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