3 ways the cold weather messes with your sleep – and what you can do about it

The drop in temperatures can make it hard to get a good night’s rest. Here’s how to beat the cold and sleep well this winter.

To say it’s cold right now would be a bit of an understatement. With temperatures dropping below freezing across the UK last night – and more sub-zero nights expected over the coming week – it’s safe to say things are looking a little *frosty*.

But having to wrap up in 101 layers isn’t the only way the cold weather can impact us. Indeed, just like a period of hot weather, a drop in temperatures can mess with our sleep.

While the body needs to be relatively cool in order to sleep comfortably, sleeping in a room which is too cold can wreak havoc with your sleep cycle, making it hard to get the restful, restorative sleep you need to thrive during the day. And paired with the darkness that typically comes with wintery weather, it can be hard to feel energised.  

However, just because the cold has the power to mess with your sleep, doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to address any potential issues.

To help you out, we asked Martin Seeley, sleep expert and CEO of Mattress Next Day, to talk us through the main ways cold weather impacts our sleep, and how to deal with it. Here’s what he had to say. 

1. It’s harder to fall asleep

Being cold can make it harder to drift off.

While sleeping in a hot room is worse than in a cold room, being too cold before bed can make it harder to drift off.

“When the temperature in our bedroom is chilly, this can often make it much harder to fall asleep quickly, as our body needs time to warm up and increase its temperature before we can be comfortable enough to drop off,” Seeley says.

“Even though it’s considered healthier to sleep in a cooler room as opposed to a heated one, if you’re too cold during sleep, your body may alter its cardiac autonomic response, which means your heart rate will increase and you may find it even harder to have a good night’s sleep.” 

How to deal with it: “Try to get warm before you jump into bed: take a hot bath or shower and wear warm bed clothes such as thermals, long PJs and fluffy bed socks,” Seeley recommends.

“Make sure your duvet is thick enough and you have blankets to help with the cold. If you do have the heating on during certain hours of the day, try to help the heat make its way to your bedroom by closing off doors to unused rooms but keep the kitchen door open so any heat from the oven or general living space moves through to your room.” 

2. Draughts cause shallow sleep

If you’ve got any draughts in your home, then your sleep could suffer as a result.

“While some may argue it’s good for you to have a breeze blowing into your room at night, it’s actually been proven to do the opposite,” Seeley explains.

“Studies have found that being in the way of moving cool air, whether this is from a window, a door, a fan or air conditioner, causes people to move around more in their sleep and increases the possibility of them being woken and disturbed.”

How to deal with it: “Block out any draughts that could be messing with your sleep,” Seeley suggests. “Bundle up some clothes and pile them next to the door opening to stop any draughts there.

“For windows, your curtains should stop any draughts coming in, however, if the curtains are short often the air may seep underneath, so you may also need to block any window seals with extra material or clothes. Or purchase floor-length, heavy winter curtains.” 

3. The cold makes your body work harder

The cold makes your body work harder, so wrapping up is crucial.

Fighting to stay warm throughout the night can take its toll on your body.

“While it has been noted through various studies that cold weather has a better effect on sleep quality overall than hot weather (hot, humid weather can cause people to sleep less deeply and wake up a lot), the cold can affect your sleep in a different and rather unusual way,” Seeley says.

“Sleeping in a cold room can make your body work a little harder. Heart rates go up during the winter time, as well as blood pressure rates [which both affect sleep], and experts have even noted that there are higher rates of heart attacks during winter.”

How to deal with it: “There’s not too much you can do to naturally lower your heart rate and blood pressure during the night, because this is up to your body’s natural response to the temperature of your room,” Seeley says.

“But you can help to keep your body warm by wearing warm enough thermal pyjamas to bed, a bed jumper and warm socks. Double down on duvets and blankets to make sure you are staying extra warm. If you sleep with a partner, you may want to use two duvets instead of one to ensure one person doesn’t hog it all night and the other person is cold.”     

Images: Getty

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