It’s hard to get to sleep when you’re feeling chilly, and with good reason, because sleep makes you more vulnerable to the cold. For some people, however, feeling cold at bedtime is an everyday problem – even in warm weather. Knowing how to tackle it effectively is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Understanding why it happens could be important to your general health.
Reasons for Feeling Cold at Night
There are many reasons why you may feel too cold to sleep at night. If your bedroom is warm enough and you have plenty of warm bed covers, you may still struggle due to problems with body temperature regulation. This often causes problems for couples where one partner is too warm in a bed where the other is too cold. Snuggling up to your partner can help but you may make them cold in the process.
Because body temperature naturally drops when we’re sleepy, you may find yourself getting too cold at night even if you’re fine during the day. You can help the situation by wearing warm pyjamas but in most cases what you really need is to find a way of helping your body to heat itself from the inside – otherwise all the insulation in the world won’t help.
Among the most common causes of getting to cold at night are circulatory disorders. These are problems with the way the body distributes its resources, including heat. In dangerously cold conditions the human body may stop supplying heat to its extremities – bits like fingers and toes – because it can survive if they are lost and it’s more important to keep vital organs warm. Sometimes the body is too sensitive to cold and starts to react this way in normal temperatures.
If you suspect you may have a circulatory disorder you should talk to your doctor. Some such problems are quite treatable whilst others may provide an early warning of other health issues. You can improve most such problems by getting more exercise. At night, wiggle your fingers and toes to increase blood flow and rub your shins and forearms if you start to feel cold. You may find that getting up and moving around a bit sometimes solves the problem.
One of the things the body usually does whilst we’re asleep is to break down foods in the gut. This produces heat energy as a by-product. If you haven’t been eating enough or if your diet is too low in fibre, this might not occur, which means that you’ll lose the benefit of that extra heat and your body temperature may fall uncomfortably low.
The best way to work around this type of problem is to have a hot meal just before bed. You don’t need much – a couple of slices of toast will do, though you may find that eating a larger meal helps you to get to sleep more quickly. If you’re worried about putting on weight, choose high fibre foods and avoid fats. A warm drink can also help to provide your body with an internal heat boost.
Hot Water Bottles
If you still can’t get warm, the best solution is usually a hot water bottle. Covers don’t produce heat by themselves (unless you have an electric blanket, not all of which can be safely left on overnight); they just trap the heat that you produce, so if you’re not producing enough they won’t help. Put your hot water bottle in your bed about fifteen minutes before you’re ready to retire. You can get microwaveable heat packs as an alternative if you’re worried about leaks.
Once you’re in bed you can curl up next to your hot water bottle and it should keep you warm for hours. Unless it comes with a specially designed case it’s best not to hug it, as this could cause parts of your skin to overheat and be slowly damaged whilst you’re sleeping and unable to notice. As your body temperature settles at a comfortable level you should find it much easier to sleep.
Because heat makes us naturally drowsy, this approach can also work for some insomniacs who don’t have a problem with the cold. Simply experiment to find the right temperature for you.