Covers on or covers off?
It’s a dilemma many Aussies face when the nights are hot and sleep is elusive.
The solution, for a fair few, is the half in, half out method, where part of the body is under the covers, but a part remains exposed.
It’s a bedtime habit that can help you get a good night’s rest, revealed Australian sleep expert Dr Carmel Harrington.
“The reason people sleep with one foot out from under the covers has to do with trying to regulate body temperature,’ she told news.com.au.
In a bid to explain the science, Dr Harrington said feet and toes act as a type of cooling mechanism for the body because of their special vascular structures.
“The soles of the feet help dissipate body heat,” she said. “Blood circulates around the body and cools through blood vessels in peripheral areas.
“Our body likes to sleep on a cooling temperature which is why sleeping with one leg out from under the covers can register as enough of a decrease to ensure more restful sleep.
Dr Harrington said you can better schedule sleeping hours with an understanding as to when the body is at its coolest.
Body temperature changes throughout a day. It is at its lowest at 4am and at its highest at 7pm.
Interestingly, there’s little change to when you will experience your peak body temperature, regardless of what time you go to bed.
“This means if you are an early bird, your peak temperature will be 6pm in the evening, but if you’re an owl, your peak temperature might be 8pm.
“But what we will all find is that it is difficult falling asleep on that rising temperature, so no matter when your peak is, you will find it easier to sleep as it’s going down.”
Warmer nights can make it feel almost impossible to get a decent night’s rest, however, there are several things people can do to make this easier.
“Optimal sleeping temperature is 18 C. On those nights it doesn’t go down much below 25 degrees, sleeping is really difficult,” Dr Harrington said.
Although you may fall asleep during warmer weather, staying asleep throughout the night can be harder, and a contributing factor to why you may feel bad the next day.
Dr Harrington said heat can cause people to suddenly wake up at 3am, an event which disturbs the deepest part of the sleep cycle.
“One of the reasons it is difficult to maintain sleep in high temperatures is because when we are in dream sleep, or REM, we are paralysed.
“So we are unable to shiver or sweat. This means if the external temperature is 28 degrees and we are trying to sleep, normally, if we are awake we would sweat a little and cool ourselves down.
“But this is not possible when we are in dream sleep.”
HOW TO SLEEP IN THE HEAT
Her top suggestion for ensuring a decent night’s sleep when the heat is on was to invest in a fan, particularly one that had some type of air purification system.
“This type of fan can be especially helpful to those on Australia’s East Coast where air quality has been bad,” she said.
Dr Harrington also recommends the “old fashioned trick” of placing a wet towel in front of a fan so it blows cooler air throughout the night.
Airconditioning is also suggested as a way of regulating temperature. The setting should be no higher than 18 degrees.
“One thing I often recommend is a warm to hot shower before you go to sleep,” she said.
“As you come out of the shower, you start to cool down, which the body detects. That will help you get to sleep.”
Lastly, Dr Harrington said when it comes to a good night noise, light level and temperature all need to be taken into consideration.