How to Sleep Well When it is Cold
The winter season can be a great time to cozy up and get some well-deserved rest, but it can be difficult when the days are colder and darker. Here are a few simple tips that can help you get the sleep you need when temperatures drop:
What is the right sleeping temperature to sleep well when it is cold?
To start with, what is the right sleeping temp? Darkness cues our body temp to go down, light cues us that it is time to sleep (3) Too hot, too cold, or too much light can make it hard to sleep. Nothing is worse than lying in bed shivering! Add to this the fact that your temperature dips at night, and it becomes essential to keep your room at just the right temp.
According to neurologist Christopher Winter, an expert in sleep and author of The Sleeping Solution, the ideal temp is between 60 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit and should not be below 53 or above 75. (1) Because your body temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, a lower temperature helps you fall asleep more quickly. With a cooler temperature in the room, how then do you keep yourself warm? Read on to get some ideas!
Use multiple layers rather than one thick layer.
If you dislike cold, it can be tempting to outfit your bed with the thickest blanket possible, thinking this will protect you from the ever-dropping temps. However, the opposite usually works best because trapping air between several layers works better to hold in heat than one thick and heavy blanket. Multiple layers trap your body heat, and alternating thin and thick layers maximize the effect (2). It’s also easier to adjust because you can then add or remove a layer or two as required to be comfortable. This way, you always have a blanket nearby just in case the temperature drops during the night.
Choose down or wool for your comforter or duvet filling, as both are excellent insulators. Silk can work as well. For blankets, the warmest materials are wool (including cashmere) and cotton fleece (2). These materials have curlier fibers that trap heat better than flat synthetics.
Your underlayer can make a difference as well. Consider a mattress, topper, or mattress pad that contains wool. Placing a layer of wool underneath makes for a cozy surface to sleep on, and wool keeps you warm when the weather is colder. A fleecy underblanket can help retain heat also (9)
Switch to flannel bedsheets in the winter.
If you do not want to use a heated pad or blanket, flannel bed sheets are an excellent alternative!
The fluffiness of the flannel will trap more air, making it a better insulator. (2) Flannel sheets are breathable and provide excellent insulation, making them perfect for those seeking a cozy and comfortable sleep experience.
Draft-proof your bedroom
Ensure there are no drafts under doors (draft-stoppers help) or coming in through windows. Feel for leaks with your hands or hold a burning incense stick by the windows and doors and look at how the smoke moves (8). If you find leaks, deal with them to not get so cold at night. (3) Heavier window coverings will help insulate your bedroom. (8) Move your bed away from the window (8) or any exterior walls.
A little-known tip is to reverse the ceiling fan to a clockwise motion. Since heat rises, you want to utilize the warm air that has floated to the top of the room. This way, the fan will draw the warmer air down from the ceiling bringing it into the room.
Another tip to keep your room cozier is to lay down a thick area rug (8). This is a great way to warm up your area if you have hardwood or laminate floors. A thick, plush area rug will insulate your bedroom and make it a more pleasant experience when you step out of your cozy nest of a bed (8)
Try some light stretching or calisthenics before bed
Doing some light exercise before bed gets some of your blood moving but won’t raise your temperature so much that it is hard to sleep. (3) It is also a great chance to settle down for sleep. (6)
Soak in a warm bath or shower or drink a cup of tea
Take a warm bath or shower. If you are cold, a warm bath can warm you up (4) A warm bath will raise your body temperature so you won’t be as chilly. Bathing often causes drowsiness, too (1) Using essential oils, such as lavender and ylang-ylang, will help you relax and get ready for sleep.
Drink warming caffeine-free tea before bed (3) Chamomile works well, and the bonus is that it also prepares you to relax and go to sleep. Make sure you use the restroom before going to bed to lessen the chance of having to roll out of your cozy nest in the middle of the night. (7)
Warm but breathable pajamas help you sleep well when it is cold
If you want to sleep well when it is cold, natural fabrics are better insulators (1) and naturally breathable (4). They warm you up just enough but do not cause you to sleep sweaty or clammy. Flannel is an excellent choice as the soft, woven thread and brushed fibers provide a luxurious feel that is gentle against the skin and helps to trap air for extra warmth. Wearing warmer pajamas also helps keep you comfortable if you have to get up in the middle of the night (2)
Consider a sleeping cap or bed socks (1)
Wearing socks causes vasodilation (the dilation of the blood vessels) which tells your brain it is time for bed! The dilation releases heat that redistributes throughout the body, causing a rapid decrease in the core body temperature. Cold feet can wake you during the night, and socks can help prevent this interruption. Socks should be breathable, loose-fitting, and not too thick. (3) Keeping your feet warm can transfer to your whole body, and you may even want to consider a sleeping cap or soft cotton gloves. (7) Finally, putting a little bit of lotion on underneath socks and gloves can help retain the natural moisture of your feet and combat dryness and cracking – a bonus!
The most often-mentioned tip to sleep well when it is cold
Believe it or not, when we did our research, an old-fashioned water bottle was the most often mentioned remedy to a cold night. So if you want to stay warm and comfortable, you may want to sleep next to a hot water bottle (1) (3) (4) Add a wool or fleece cover, so you don’t burn yourself or feel a cold bottle in the middle of the night (9) Some people use a rice bag with the same effect (5)
So, there you have it – a guide to pleasant winter sleep! If you have any questions about products to help in your sleep quest, we will be happy to assist you. Also, check out the list of resources below for more information on how to sleep well when it is cold outside!
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First published December, 2021
Revised January 19, 2023
- Keep Your Bed Warm
- How to keep warm in the winter
- Farmers Almanac
- Seven tips for staying warm
- How to warm up your bedroom without heat