Most people associate a good night’s sleep with being warm and cozy, but studies are beginning to point in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that though our bodies may like the comfort of warm temperatures, our brain seems to lean towards the cold when it’s time to sleep. Some insomniacs have reported getting relief by wearing cooling hats, and a recent sleep study has discovered that the reason that we yawn is to help cool down the brain and get rid of excess heat in preparation for going to sleep.
No matter how much you and your spouse may argue about whether to set the thermostat to a cool temperature or to a higher number that is more comfortable when you have to get out from under the covers in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, scientists seem to be siding with those who prefer the cold. Your body responds when your core temperature drops by becoming drowsy, and on top of that the National Institutes of Health has indicated that some studies show that a bedroom set to cooler temperatures may actually help us burn more calories. Studies have shown that a room temperature of 66 degrees increases the levels of metabolically active brown fat, helping the body burn more calories and eliminate excess blood sugar.
Despite the obvious health advantages linked with increasing metabolic activity, the answer to whether or not to sleep in a cold room is not as straightforward as it may seem. For example, though the participants in the study cited above slept only under a sheet in those chilly rooms, most people are likely to pile on more blankets when their room is cold, and that is going to counteract the impact of the cold. On the other hand, there is some indication that one of the contributing factors to the impact on fat was the fact that the cold caused the men to shiver in their sleep. The outcome may have been good for metabolism, but not for sleep quality. According to Dr. Eus van Someren and his fellow researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, though a reduction in core temperature before going to sleep will definitely help you fall asleep, your body needs to be comfortable in order for you to remain soundly asleep and get the rest you need. Someren refers to the notion of “perfect comfort”, and says that is not achievable if you are too cold. He also says that studies have shown that the older we get, the more being warm helps us to fall asleep.
If that’s the case, then the answer may lie in wearing pajamas and using a set of comfortable blankets to keep our skin temperature comfortable, while the room temperature of 66 will allow our brains to reach the cooler temperature it needs o fall asleep.