Extreme temperatures can make sleep very uncomfortable. As we’ll explore, sleeping in a cold environment can change the structure of our sleep and mess with our circadian rhythms. Although electric blankets can remedy this issue, they don’t work for everyone. If left on for too long, electric blankets overheat the bed and cause us to feel clammy.
Our body heat is an excellent insulator, so we should try our best to ‘trap’ this natural heat. At the same time, we should avoid becoming too sweaty at night. In this guide, we’ll explore some practical ways to trap body heat and get warm in bed quickly.
Simple Ways to Feel Warm in Bed
If you want to feel warm in bed, there are many ways you can achieve this. In fact, you’ll feel a lot warmer if you try a combination of the following techniques:
- Use Heated Items to Warm the Bed – Placing a hot water bottle in the bed ten minutes beforehand can help the bed seem more inviting on a cold winter night. Hot water bottles are great for preventing ‘cold shock’ but handling hot water can be dangerous for some people. We’ll explore some easier (and longer-lasting) methods for heating the bed.
- Raise Body Temperature – Although you wouldn’t want to raise your body temperate too much before bedtime, raising it marginally will stop you from feeling chilly.
- Try Different Textures– Soft, cozy, and ‘brushed’ fabrics can help you feel toasty and warm.
- Modify the Room Temperature – It might seem obvious but shutting out draughts and ensuring the whole room is heated effectively will help you sleep better.
- Trap Air- Whether it is trapped between pajamas or blankets, body heat is an excellent insulator.
Effects of Sleeping in a Cold Environment
We know that a cold bedroom can make sleep more difficult. Also, studies have shown that ‘cold stress’ can change the architecture (or structure) of our sleep. Each night, we enter four ‘stages’ of sleep. Sleeping in the cold can change the length of each of these stages.
According to a study on Science Direct, women who slept in a mildly cold environment spent less time in stage 3 ‘slow-wave sleep.’ Not only that, the duration between their REM sleep (dreamy, deep sleep) and non-REM sleep became deregulated.
As a result, the women woke up frequently during the night and found themselves ‘oversleeping’ for many days after the experiment. As such, the experimenters concluded that thermoregulation is critical for maintaining the four stages of sleep. If our sleep stages are regularly disturbed, this can cause hormonal imbalances. In extreme cases, it could impact our mood and metabolism.
Also, some studies have shown that sleeping in a cold environment can cause a surge in blood pressure when we wake in the morning. This is the reason why people with heart conditions are advised against taking ice baths and sleeping in cold environments.
What Is the Optimum Temperature for Sleep?
Although sleeping in a cold environment is uncomfortable, a hot and sweaty bedroom can be just as bad! Studies have shown that the optimum temperature for sleep is 16-18 degrees Celsius (60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit).
However, menopausal women generally find it harder to regulate their body temperature, because their hormones are in flux. As such, these women might be tempted to try and sleep in a cold ambient temperature to avoid nasty night sweats and hot flashes. However, they’d probably find it hard to fall asleep in cold conditions. The best thing to do is to employ the technique of ‘layering’ described in this guide. Layering nightclothes is useful because we can modify the amount of ‘warmth’ we require throughout the night.
Although electric blankets are great for warming the bed, they make some users feel lethargic. Let’s discuss some alternative ways to keep your bed warm (yet comfortable) throughout the night.
Select Nightwear You Can Layer
The most effective way to retain heat is to trap it between layers. As such, opt for thinner night garments that you can layer on top of each other.
- Start by wearing some thermal underwear. Be sure to choose a size that fits quite snugly.
- Layer your pajamas on top. As we’ll explore, flannel, merino, and silk pajamas tend to work best.
- Add some cozy socks to warm up the feet in bed. Our extremities tend to feel cold first so covering the feet is essential.
- If you’re sleeping in a cold environment, you could add an extra jumper with a hood, to keep the neck and ears warm.
- Depending on how hot you feel, you can add or remove layers accordingly throughout the night.
How Thermal Wear Works
Thermal underwear is a two-ply fabric made from a mix of cotton, polyester, and sometimes wool. Because there are two layers to this fabric, it traps the heat of your own body. This trapped heat acts as a natural insulator. Thermal underwear is usually comprised of a long-sleeved vest and leggings (or Long Johns). Thermals might not look very attractive, but the warmth they offer is unrivaled.
Which Fabric Is Best for Pajamas?
Wearing pajamas over the top of your thermals will help you feel snug on a cold night. The best fabrics for this purpose are silk, merino, or flannel.
- Silk may not feel very substantial, but it is an excellent fabric for regulating temperature; silk warms you up when you’re feeling cold and helps you cool down when you’re overheated. Also, because silk is easy to layer on top of other fabrics, it can help trap heat efficiently.
- Flannel is another excellent fabric for cold winter nights. It’s a warm, but lightweight fabric that has seen a revival in the last few years. Flannel pajamas are usually quite inexpensive, too.
- Merino wool is another excellent choice for pajamas because it’s warm, yet lightweight. Merino wool is also naturally fire-resistant so does not require any chemical treatments.
Layering any of these pajamas over your thermals will help to trap additional layers of hot air, keeping you nice and toasty. If you feel hot and bothered, you can remove a layer and get back to sleep quickly.
Which Socks Are Best for Sleep?
When choosing cozy bed socks, opt for socks made of merino, bamboo, or microfiber. Here’s some info about your options:
- Merino wool is a material that helps to wick away any sweat from the feet. It is a lot thicker than cotton and helps feet stay warm because it traps the body’s own heat effectively. Like silk, merino keeps feet warm when they’re cold, and cold when they’re warm. As such, merino bed socks are ideal for someone who finds it difficult to regulate their body temperature throughout the night.
- Bamboo is also an excellent option for bed socks. This material has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties in case your feet become clammy during the night.
- Microfiber socks have the texture of soft velvet. Microfiber is also incredibly lightweight, so your feet won’t feel heavy.
What Is the Best Winter Duvet?
There are hundreds of duvets on the market, so choosing the warmest can seem like a minefield. Next time you’re purchasing a duvet, select your choice according to the ‘tog rating’ and filling.
Check the Tog Rating
The tog rating refers to how effectively a duvet can trap hot air. A duvet with a tog rating of 1 will not trap much air so will keep you very cool at night. Conversely, a duvet with a tog rating of 15 (the maximum) will ensure you are very insulated.
If you plan to use the same duvet all year round, you might be best opting for an 8-10 tog duvet, so that it is cool enough to use in summer. However, it’s best to use a separate duvet for summer and winter, where possible. A winter duvet should have a tog rating of at least 11.
Check the Filling
Natural duvet fillings tend to be more expensive, but they’re guaranteed to keep you warmer at night. Down-filled duvets are the ‘gold standard’ in winter duvets. The filling is made from the breast feathers of ducks and geese. If you are looking for a warm down comforter/duvet, try and source one that’s filled with the feathers of Canadian geese. Feather duvets are fairly lightweight; you’ll feel cozy, without feeling ‘weighed down.’
If you’re prone to allergies, you may be better suited to a synthetic duvet. Although synthetic duvets are not quite as warm as natural ones, the difference is marginal. The benefit of many synthetic duvets is that they’re made with moisture-wicking materials. So, if you do become overheated at night, you’re less likely to feel clammy. Because synthetic duvets are very affordable, you could purchase two and layer one on top of the other, for added warmth.
How to Warm up Bed Before Getting In
Placing a hot water bottle in the bed is a great, traditional method for warming the bed. It’s a good idea to put one at the head of the bed, and one near the end of the bed, so your extremities do not get cold. Although hot water bottles are relatively easy to use, they’re not suitable for everyone. Arguably, there are also some more efficient options available for heating the bed. Whether you’re on a budget or you’re happy to purchase something new, consider the following alternative bedwarmers.
- Fleece-Covered Wheat Bags can be placed in the microwave for a couple of minutes to get warm. The wheat bags are then placed in the bed about 20 minutes before you go to sleep. Older people with limited mobility may find microwave-operated products easier to use, as they’re less likely to scald their hands. Wheat bags can also be placed in the freezer, so they double-up as a cold compress.
- Rechargeable Heat Packs can be charged during the day, and then placed under the duvet at bedtime. Some people prefer these to hot water bottles because they retain their heat for longer. They may be preferable to an electric blanket because they are more portable and can quickly be removed if the bed starts to feel clammy.
- DIY Options – A favorite ‘sustainable’ bed warmer can be made from rice and old fabric. Essentially, you make a long fabric envelope and stuff it with rice grains. The finished product is then microwaved and placed on the bed.
If all else fails, try persuading your other-half (or your pet) to ‘warm’ the bed for you.
How to Warm up Bed Sheets
Sleeping in freshly warmed sheets, straight from the tumble dryer, is pure bliss. Unfortunately, this is an occasional luxury rather than a daily pleasure. So, is there a way to recreate warm sheets on a daily basis?
Some people use a hairdryer to blast hot air into the sheets. Though this is a quick and easy option, it doesn’t seem particularly effective. Other people have suggested running an iron over the sheets to warm them. Again, this seems like quite a lot of effort for very little return.
You could consider installing a ‘Bed Jet.’ This is a system that blows hot (or cold) air into the bed to change the temperature of the sheets. This system is much more responsive than an electric blanket; you can quickly reverse the temperate if you become overheated.
Failing this, choosing cozy bed sheets will ensure you don’t feel too much of a ‘cold shock’ when you get into bed.
What Are the Coziest Fabrics for Sleep?
Microfiber, jersey and, flannel are ideal fabrics for bed sheets and blankets. Each has a slightly different set of characteristics that will help you feel warm (but not overheated).
- Soft Microfiber – Microfiber is made from lots of very thin, tightly-packed strands. It’s incredibly soft to the touch, but it is also highly durable. Draping a microfiber blanket over your bed is one way to reap the benefits of this comforting material. Alternatively, a microfiber dressing gown or jumper is a lightweight outer-layer that you can wear throughout the evening to stay warm.
- Stretchy Jersey – The knit of this fabric makes it stretchy, soft, and malleable. Jersey bed sheets are an excellent option for the winter months because this material molds to the body like a glove and stop any cold draughts from getting in. At the same time, jersey material is very lightweight so will not feel cumbersome. If you opt for jersey bedding, you should choose a high thread count to ensure softness.
- Brushed Flannel – We’ve already discussed flannel pajamas, but this material can be excellent for bedding too. Flannel is made from wool, cotton, or synthetics, so there’s a type to suit most people. The fibers are ‘brushed’ so body heat becomes trapped between the fibers.
Because these fabrics are very lightweight, you’re unlikely to become overheated.
Warming Drinks for Bedtime
Having a warming drink before bedtime raises the body’s temperature ever so slightly. This encourages relaxation and helps the body feel ready for sleep. It’s best to avoid caffeinated drinks as these could disturb sleep. Nonetheless, there’s no need to stick to chamomile tea. Consider these options:
- A Shot of Ginger – Juiced ginger root will give you an incredibly ‘warm’ feeling in your throat and stomach. A shot of ginger provides you with the same ‘warming’ sensation as a shot of liquor – but with none of the nasty side effects! If you want to savor this warming feeling, add the ginger shot to a mug of warm water and sip at your leisure. Ginger water has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body so may help reduce the effects of body pain!
- Herbal Teas. If you are looking for something light and palatable, you could try a strawberry or raspberry tea. However, studies have shown that certain stronger herbs can raise the body’s core temperature, so should help you feel even ‘warmer.’ These herbs include marjoram, thyme, black pepper, or juniper.
- Malty, Milky Drinks – If you drink a malty, milky drink before bed, you could enjoy many sleep-related benefits. According to an article published by BMJ, warm, malty drinks (prepared with milk) reduce the number of movements we make during sleep. It’s thought that, because milk is rich in tryptophan, it may help to boost the body’s production of melatonin. Moreover, the variety of vitamins and minerals found in malty drinks may help to ‘calm’ the muscles and joints.
- Almond Milk and Cinnamon – If you can’t tolerate regular milk, try adding a few sprinkles of dried cinnamon powder to warm almond milk. This gently spiced drink will flood your body with a cozy, warm feeling.
How to Feel Warm at Bedtime
Besides drinking a hot drink, there are many other ‘warming’ rituals you can perform at bedtime. A study published by JStage found that people who took warm foot baths before bed slept more soundly. The warm foot baths helped them drop off to sleep faster, improved ‘stage three’ sleep, and also reduced body movements throughout the night!
According to the researchers, it was the marginal rise in body temperature that produced such positive results.
A foot bath uses a lot less water than a regular bath so it’s something most people could carry out every evening. Once you’ve dried your feet, pop on a pair of cozy bed socks, so your feet stay warmer for longer!
Heat your Bedroom Effectively
Although the temperature of the bed is essential, we must also consider the ambient temperate of the bedroom. As mentioned, the optimum temperature for sleeping is between 16-18 degrees (60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit).
To achieve a warm bedroom, some people leave their central heating on throughout the night. However, this can cause the room to become very stuffy. Each house and heating system is different, so temperature regulation is something that is usually achieved through trial and error.
If you want to give your bedroom a short ‘blast’ of hot air before bedtime, a plug-in portable heater could be a great option. Portable heaters provide temperatures of 16 – 32 degrees Celsius. Try plugging one in on your bedside table and positioning it towards your bed. This blast of heat will help ‘take the edge off’ an ice-cold bed. Remember, these are temporary heating systems so should not be left on all night. When you get into bed, turn the system off at the wall immediately.
Finally, try to exploit the sun’s rays to heat your bedroom naturally. Open your curtains during the day so sunlight can heat the room. Then, as soon as the sun starts to set, close the curtains to help retain any residual heat.
Block Out Draughts
Gaps in window frames can cause bedrooms to feel icy-cold on a windy day. Follow these tips to ensure cold draughts do not destroy your sleep:
- Tape the Windows – If small gaps in your window frames are letting in the frosty air, draught tape is an inexpensive solution. Taping up these holes is vital because draughts can become noisy as well as cold.
- Hang Draught Curtains – If your front door lets a draught in, a curtain (or excluder) could be a great solution. These curtains help to insulate the whole house because they stop heat from escaping.
- Buy Larger Bedding –If you tend to move around a lot in your sleep, cold air will find its way into the bed. However, if you buy bedding that is extra-long and extra-wide, this will limit any nasty draughts.
- Stack Your Pillows Tightly – if you stack your pillows three-high, you’ll prevent cold air from penetrating the bed.
If you keep draughts under control, this means you won’t have to rely on central heating and electric blankets to keep you warm. As a result, you’re less likely to become overheated during the night.