Updated: Aug 8, 2019
The expression “feeling under the weather,” describing a person as unwell, was first featured in early 19th century newspaper. Today we are blessed with technology that protects us from the weather and helps us optimize our living, working and sleeping environment. Extreme ambient temperatures interfere with the quality of slumber and, therefore impact our daily life and overall health.
Disrupted sleep prompts daytime fatigue and affects the quality of life by reducing daily activity. It builds sleep debt and contributes to a vast of chronic and autoimmune illnesses. Sleep deprivation is linked to numerous physical and mental health conditions that are difficult to treat even after introducing decent sleep hygiene and regular sleeping schedule to your lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at how to set the temperature to maximize sleep, productivity, and well-being.
Mechanics of the Internal Thermostat
Thermoregulation is the body’s ability to keep its temperature safe and within certain boundaries despite the external conditions. Its role is essential for the proper functioning of our system, and we feel it in full force when we sweat or shiver as these are the body’s responses to the weather, illness, stress, exertion, etc. The thermoregulation is strongly connected with the mechanism that regulates sleep as it greatly influences the ability to fall and stay asleep. Thus, the thermal environment is critical for the quality and quantity of sleep we get.
The researchers at Flinders University, South Australia, studied insomnia patients. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty to initiating or maintain sleep. The results suggest that since the core body temperature significantly affects sleepiness and sleep propensity, the cause of insomnia may not be the impaired circadian timing but elevated core body temperature.
Studies suggest that age and gender impact thermoregulation and therefore interfere with the duration and quality of sleep. Aging involves various biological changes that interfere with thermoregulation. The findings indicate that as they age, ladies tend to sleep less and wake up earlier than gentlemen due to differences in their ability to thermoregulate.
The Rhythm of Sleep
The circadian rhythm is your internal clock that roughly follows a 24-hour day cycle. It regulates the sleep-wake cycle, alertness, and body temperature, among many other things. The circadian system (a set of physical and psychological shifts that take place (In a 24-hour span) and our biological systems are interdependent: impacted by the outer changes, these systems affect each other and work together so that our brain and body can function smoothly and promptly, in sync with a 24-hour day. If in tune with the external time, the circadian rhythm makes sure we wake up when the sun rises and feel sleepy after the sun sets. It increases the body temperature and subsequent alertness in the morning hours as it preps us for the day. It then proceeds to drop them in the evening when it is time for rest.
So as we prepare to turn in for the night, our body starts cooling off. The heart rate and blood flow slow down, and skin temperature is first to begin declining. These changes signal the body that it is time to repose, and as we drift to sleep, the core body temperature (98.6°F / 37.7°C), continues to fall.
Sleeping in the extreme ambient heat (97° to 100°F / 36°to 38°C) results in poor sleep quality, subsequent night sweats, and restlessness. High temperatures reduce sleep efficiency (the ratio of the time spent in bed compared to the duration of sleep), sleep adequateness (the satisfactory quality and sufficient quantity of slumber), and sleep calmness (the quality of maintained, undisturbed rest throughout the night).
In other words, if you sleep in a hot room, you will have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and the shut-eye you get will be shallow and short. Consequently, you will wake up feeling uneasy and exhausted.
Cooler sleeping environments increase the amount of brown fat (the “good fat”) and help the body burn calories and dispose of excess sugar. Thus they lower the chances of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Temperatures that range around 60° F prompt the body to produce more melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone). Melatonin protects the skin against the sun and contributes to the successful management of skin conditions. It is has a vital role in preserving cardiovascular health and protects the brain against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
On the other hand, the 2007 study published in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity journal, reveals that a warmer sleeping environment (30°C/86°F) can help increase recuperative, deep sleep after sleep deprivation and reduce inflammation in cases of infection with influenza virus.
Sleeping in the right environment primes you for the day ahead. The ambient temperature is essential to good night's rest, wellness, and performance. If properly set, you will sleep peacefully, wake up recharged, be more productive, and have an overall better quality of life.
Author: Mia Ca