Creating a Better Sleep Climate

Most of us sleep with a blanket.  Why not just crank up the heat?  The answer may help you sleep.

 A recent Nature paper suggests that many sleep strategies- a warm bath, relaxation techniques, some medications- may cause sleep by warming the hands and feet

Why do most of us prefer covers in a cool room to no covers in a hot room?  Data presented at the 2011 meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies suggest that keeping the head cool may induce sleep.  Insomnia subjects wearing cooling caps slept as well as subjects without insomnia. 

So a reasonable way to keep the body warm and the head cool is a blanket.  Infants enjoy swaddling and develop affection for their blankies- such experiences in early life may train us to covet blankets later, or they may result from our need to have the body warm and the head cool.  A cold night may chill the entire body, and a hot night may warm the entire body, but neither provides the body warmth and head coolness of a blanket.  Indeed, a spouse’s or parent’s embrace may provide a similar benefit; the body warms and the head stays cool.  Both the blanket and embrace signal safety.  And safety is an absolute need for sleep. Our bodies have evolved not to sleep when lions are bearing down upon us. Perhaps, the separation of warmth and coolness itself is one signal of safety. 

There are many routes to a feeling of safety and calmness at bedtime.  Create a comfortable sleep environment.  Develop a regular bedtime routine. Learn a relaxation technique or two.  Write out a list of things on your mind in the early evening.  And consider swaddling yourself in a blanket in a cool room.