In order to sleep well, your body needs to be kept neither too warm, nor too cold. Otherwise you’ll use up energy cooling your body down or warming it up. You’ll be kept restless either sweating or pumping blood to your cold toes. I understand that you may live in a southern climate or you may be reading this during the summer in the north. If so, you can read it and file it away and read it again in wintertime or when you visit the far north.
Making Yourself More Comfortable
Electric Blankets – Just Say NO!
Now, while an electric blanket will do an admirable job of keeping you warm, it’s going to put you in close contact with electromagnetic fields (EMFs). And that’s not such a good thing. EMF’s do appear to put stress on the body. And stress is something you don’t want, especially when you are trying to rest. On an equipment safety note, in the UK, it is estimated that 5,000 fires per year are caused by faulty electric blankets. Most of these problems occur with blankets older than 10 years. Between the potential health risks and safety hazards, I’d seriously consider getting rid of any electric blankets you might have. There are much safer alternatives that will help you sleep even better.
Sleeping in Your Socks
In the middle of a cold northern January, your feet, all by their lonesome at the end of the bed, are the most difficult part of your body to keep warm. Your hands, on the other hand, can rest warmly on your stomach or at your sides. Remember, that your body prefers warm limbs and a cooler torso. So it really doesn’t make too much sense in the way we tend to clothe everything but our hands and feet. Even if you don’t find you have cold feet in the winter, while you sleep, your body may very well be working extra hard to keep them toasty. More blood has to be pumped faster to your toes. Wearing socks to bed cuts back on the effort needed to keep your toes comfy – allowing your heart rate to slow down so you can sleep deeper.
If you find your toes get especially cold, you can put cayenne pepper in your socks! Start off slowly. Turn your socks inside out and put 1⁄4 teaspoon on the bottom of each sock, gently turn them outside in and put them on. Some people use 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for maximum effect. If you find your feet get dry wearing socks all night, massage them with a thin layer of oil before you put your socks on. You can keep your socks underneath your pillow so you never forget them.
Once in bed, and you realize your feet are cold, it’ll just wake you up if you have to go searching for socks (if you bother at all). You’ll just lie there trying to tuck one set of toes under your calf. If you aren’t comfortable wearing socks, you can try folding an extra blanket at the foot of your bed, so your feet get that extra insulation. Or just put a nice hot water bottle (see below) at your feet.
Warm Water or Shower
If your feet or hands are cold before bed, run them under warm water until they are comfortable. This way your body won’t have to pump more blood to get them warm. You can just relax and go to sleep. If your whole body is chilled, then have a quick shower or a bath. Yes, this takes a few minutes, but if it means you sleep deeper, you’ll need less sleep and that’s always a more efficient use of time.
When I was going through menopause I had to give up my very hot baths at night because they just accentuated my hot flashes. So, if you are in that transition stage of life, make your water warm, not hot. If you’re all overheated and sweaty from a hot and humid summer day, cool off in the shower before bed. Get your body temperature down so it’s not trying to keep itself cool when you hit the sack.
Before central heating, wearing a sleeping cap during winter months was a common practice. It can also double as a blindfold. I used to wear a cap or scarf on my head all through the winter so I could keep my window open at night. A room that is closed up tight like a drum to keep it warm will become deficient in oxygen and feel stuffy and claustrophobic. You can keep both your night cap and socks under your pillow. Or, if you don’t like wearing socks, you may find that keeping your head “sealed up” will store enough heat that your feet stay warm, naturally.
The Hot Water Bottle
Our ancestors probably, also, slept closer together or all in the same bed. Many would even sleep close to animals or have them in the lower part of the house, so they could benefit from their body heat. If you don’t have a pet or partner to keep you warm, a hot water bottle is another great option. Start heating the water as you get ready for bed (brushing your teeth, etc.). Make it part of your bedtime routine. Your body will quickly associate a bubbling kettle with time for sleep. Don’t heat the water so hot that you can’t hold the bottle against your skin. If you do, just mix it up with about 20% cold water from the tap. (Don’t bother with filtered water, obviously.)
Even better is to put the hot water bottle in bed a few minutes before you climb in. If you meditate or read or do something of that nature each night to help you sleep, get the hot water bottle ready beforehand. This way, when you crawl into bed, it’ll be toasty warm. The best place to position your hot water bottle is at your feet. Your body prefers to have a cool core, but warm hands and feet. If your hands get cold easily, just put them on your stomach underneath your top.
In the middle of summer, especially in Northern countries, the temperature can become quite hot – and humid. Most of us have experienced a few sleepless nights due to oppressive heat. An obvious answer is the air conditioner. Many people don’t like them and they do put out a large EMF field… but you’ll have to weigh the pros and the cons. If you sleep better with it, for a few hot days each year, then go with it. I’m fortunate here in Maui to live high enough on the island to enjoy the trade winds blowing through the house with all the windows wide open. With the winds and ceiling fans, I’ve never had to turn on the air conditioner for years.
Sleeping outside is another option. Setting up a hammock or tent or bench in your backyard or on your porch may seem a little strange, but you may learn to love it. You’ll benefit from the cool breezes that otherwise might not reach inside your home. Wearing blindfolds (to block out the light) and keeping the windows wide open is another option. Bringing an ice pack to bed may also help. Just press it against your temple, wrists and ankles to help bring your body temperature down. Then keep it at your side for the rest of the night. This won’t work if you have cut the electricity to your bedroom to prevent EMF radiation from interrupting your sleep. You can also blow fans over pans of ice to make your own low-cost air conditioner. Also, you can strip down to nothing, or just your underwear, using a light sheet to keep any draft off your body.
Make it Happen
1. Wear socks and a cap to bed and/or put a hot water bottle at your feet during cold weather.
2. Don’t go to bed chilled – take a warm shower or bath beforehand.
3. Keep the room temperature on the cool side.
4. In the summer, take a cool shower before bed, keep the windows open or use an air conditioner. Sleep outside if you can. Bring an ice pack to bed. Stay as cool as possible.
Questions and Answers
What if my partner wants the electric blanket on and I don’t?
Ask them if they don’t mind trying out socks and a hot water bottle instead. Tell them that they will probably feel better with low-tech solutions.
What about newer products that use water soaked in a non–woven material pad?
These pads can be heated in a microwave oven. They are marketed as cheaper and safer than liquid–filled bottles. The products themselves may be fine, but the method of heating them is not. Microwaves are dangerous. I wouldn’t trust them to heat even water because of the rays they emit.