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Does being exposed to cold weather help us sleep?

BY Max Kirsten

5th Feb 2024 Wellbeing

3 min read

Does being exposed to cold weather help us sleep?
The Danish sleep method is focused around cold weather, keeping the room cool and using warm bedding, and here are the reasons why it actually works

Why do we feel sleepy after being outside or exposed to fresh air/cold weather?

Feeling sleepier after exposure to cold temperatures can be attributed to several physiological responses in the body, explains Max Kirsten, Resident Sleep Expert at PandaLondon. When faced with cold weather, the body engages in thermoregulation, a process that involves redistributing blood flow to maintain core temperature. Peripheral vasoconstriction occurs, narrowing blood vessels in extremities to conserve heat, which, in turn, may lead to a decrease in overall energy levels.
"Cold temperatures can make invdividuals feel sleepier after being out in the cold"
Additionally, cold weather and reduced exposure to natural light can influence the circadian rhythm, prompting the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. The body may also expend more energy to generate and maintain warmth in colder conditions, contributing to increased fatigue.
Overall, the combination of thermoregulatory processes, circadian rhythm adjustments, and energy expenditure in response to cold temperatures can collectively make individuals feel sleepier after being out in the cold.

What is the Danish method?

Man asleep with a big duvet
The Danish method, known as "hygge" (pronounced hoo-gah), often involves keeping the bedroom cool while using warm bedding. This practice is believed to create a cosy and comfortable sleep environment.
"The Danish method's contrast between a cool room and warm bed can enhance sleep "
The idea is to enjoy the contrast between the cool room and the warmth of the bed, enhancing the overall sleep experience. It aligns with the notion that a slightly cooler room temperature (around 60-67°F or 15-20°C) is conducive to better sleep for many people.

How can the cold weather help you sleep?

Cold weather can potentially contribute to better sleep for several reasons. It's important to note that individual preferences and responses to temperature can vary, so what works for one person may not work for another.
However, here are some ways in which cold weather might positively impact sleep:

1. Temperature regulation

The body's core temperature naturally decreases as part of the circadian rhythm to facilitate sleep. Cooler room temperatures can support this natural temperature drop, signalling to the body that it's time to rest.
"The body's core temperature naturally decreases as part of the circadian rhythm to facilitate sleep"
Maintaining a slightly cooler room temperature (typically between 15-20°C) is often recommended for optimal sleep. This temperature range tends to be more conducive to comfortable sleep for many individuals.

2. Improved oxygen levels

Fresh air typically contains higher levels of oxygen, which is essential for cellular function and overall well-being. Increased oxygen intake can promote better blood circulation and oxygenation of tissues, including the brain, which can positively impact sleep quality.

3. Thermal comfort

Feeling too hot or too cold can disrupt sleep. Cold weather might offer a more comfortable sleep environment, especially when coupled with warm bedding. This creates a balance that can enhance overall thermal comfort.

4. Enhanced sleep environment

Some people find the contrast between a cool bedroom and warm bedding to be a key factor in creating a cosy and inviting sleep environment. This aligns with the Danish concept of "hygge," which emphasises creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
Woman in bed with duvet pulled up

5. Reduced disruptions

Cold weather might lead to fewer external disturbances, such as noise from outdoor activities or insects. A quieter environment can promote better sleep quality.

6. Melatonin release

Exposure to darkness, which is often associated with cold winter nights, can stimulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. The natural decrease in ambient light during the colder months can support the body's natural sleep processes.

7. Improved respiratory function

Cold air tends to be dry, which can be beneficial for those who struggle with respiratory issues. Dry air may reduce the likelihood of congestion and make breathing easier during sleep.

8. Promotion of relaxation

The coolness in the air can induce a sense of relaxation and comfort, making it easier for individuals to unwind and prepare for sleep.
It's crucial to consider individual preferences and variations. While some people may find cold weather conducive to better sleep, others may prefer a warmer sleep environment.
Creating an optimal sleep environment involves finding the right balance of temperature, bedding and other factors that contribute to personal comfort and relaxation. Experimenting with different sleep environments can help individuals determine what works best for them.
Banner photo: Elvira Gibadullina
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