I know what you are thinking, “Dr. Breus, Spring has just begun and you are already talking about being too hot in bed?” Stick with me, this is an important topic.

When most of us think of going to sleep at night we think of getting comfortably cozy in our bed, swaddled in pajamas, linens and blankets. We adjust our just right pillow and slip into a peaceful slumber.

Oh, if only it were that easy!

That idyllic setting certainly helps bedding manufacturers sell more high thread count sheets and fluffy down comforters but when you add your body heat and that of a partner, something different happens for many people, disturbed sleep.

The Role of Thermoregulation
Our bodies are designed to begin cooling down for sleep and that begins in late afternoon and continues until the evening hours. Our body operates a process called thermoregulation on a 24-hour circadian cycle, as does the sleep-wake cycle. that allows it to adjust core temperature. Lowering the body temperature at night helps you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Rising temperature signals the body to move into a state of alertness in the morning.

It seems pretty simple, right? Just throw off the covers, sleep in the buff, problem solved!

It’s not quite that simple. Being too hot certainly has its challenges but so does being too cold. Ambient room temperature, outside temperatures, and bedding all play a role. The key is to find a good balance between hot and cold to support your body in moving you from alertness to sleep and then back to alertness when you are ready to wake up.

But how do you do that?

First, it is important to understand that the optimum room temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees or about 18 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind, room temperature is the temperature of the air surrounding us. But, remember those sheets, blankets, comforters, and heat producing bed partners? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. That ambient air may only be touching your exposed skin and the rest of your swaddled body may be too warm for your best sleep. One of the big challenges is the contact of your body with your mattress, especially if you have a foam or latex mattress, the heat builds and you may be in for a rough night of rest.

Fortunately, there are very good solutions to being both comfortable and supporting a good night of sleep. Sleep systems like Chilipad allow you to control your body heat in bed through your sleep cycle. It works by effectively lowering your body temperature in the evening as you nestle into your bed and then warms up to help you wake up and get alert fast in the morning. I  share the Chilipad with patients more often than other solutions because it allows two people the same bed to adjust their temperature independently. Oh, and here is maybe the best benefit of all: A colder body temperature triggers brown fat—a fat that burns calories instead of storing them.

Being too hot because of your environment may be controllable, but what about Menopause?
I’ve written extensively about how menopause can wreak havoc on sleep and what you can do. But let’s tackle one of the big symptoms here too. Night sweats are a frequent symptom for women in menopause, and sometimes for women in perimenopause. Women in menopause and perimenopause often experience sleep troubles, including night sweats, as a result of fluctuating hormone levels. The quality of sleep—and how well you feel during the day—can be deeply affected by night sweats and other menopause-related sleep disruptions. These sleep disruptions last for an average of slightly more than 7 years, according to new research. There are treatment options for women experiencing night sweats, including Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT), which research indicates can help alleviate night sweats and other menopause symptoms. And again, one of the most effective tools in your arsenal is a sleep system like the Chilipad, it is a game changer as you go through menopause and as you age.

Other causes of night sweats and overheating in bed
Other hormone imbalances, being overweight, GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease, and obstructive sleep apnea can also cause night sweats. Additionally, hormone dysfunction associated with diabetes and with thyroid disorders both can cause night sweats. The hormonal changes of puberty can also lead to night sweats for adolescents—as can the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy for expectant mothers.

Simple Solutions
Here are a few simple solutions to ensuring that your body is prepared to sleep once you get to bed.

  • Allow your body time to adjust to prepare for sleep. Give your body two to three hours before bed to begin cooling down. If you are going to take a hot show or a soak, be sure to do it about 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Invest in good bedding and keep it clean. Natural fibers are best and most comfortable. Wash them regularly so that they are clean and feel nice to sleep in.
  • Keep your bedroom at about 65 degrees (18 degrees Celsius).
  • Keep your hands and feet warm. Extremities pull heat away but wear as little as possible.
  • Use a Chilipad year-round to control your actual in bed sleep environment.

There you have it, a quick guide to beat the heat for better sleep. I hope that you’ll take some time and try a few of these easy changes to sleep better. I’ll be writing more about this as we move into summer but if you keep in mind that it is your sleeping temperature, not just the outside and ambient room temperature, you’ll be better prepared to support yourself through a good night of sleep.

As Lionel Richie might say, I hope that you sleep is always as easy as Sunday morning.

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Sweet dreams
Dr. Michael Breus