Why you should never sleep with the heating on

·4-min read
Tired young woman sleeping in bed
Getting too hot in bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. [Photo: Getty]

With the cold nights drawing in, it may be tempting to snuggle under the covers with the thermostat full blast.

But doctors have warned nodding off with the heating on could lead to a sleepless night.

Getting too hot while we catch some Zzz’s may also wreak havoc with our skin, leaving it red, dry and itchy.

READ MORE: The best sleep aids to help you nod off

Perhaps surprisingly, having a slightly chilly head may help you nod off.

“Ideally your brain temperature needs to be a fraction of a degree cooler than the rest of the body,” Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert at Silentnight, told Yahoo UK.

“When this is the case, the ‘circadian timer’ in the brain, which controls the sleep cycle, can function optimally.”

With your body covered in blankets and your head fully exposed to a radiator’s warmth, it may be easy to get too hot with the heating on.

A scientist from the University of Southern Australia claims insomniacs typically have a higher temperature when they try and nod off.

“This results in a state of heightened arousal that prevents them from falling asleep when they go to bed, probably because they have to wait for their bodies to lose the heat that's keeping them awake,” Dr Cameron Van den Heuvel said.

“We're only talking about a half to one degree [Celsius] (32.9°F-to-33.8°F) but that small temperature change can result in significant differences in arousal between insomniacs and people without sleeping problems.”

READ MORE: Could 'moon breathing' help you sleep?

While it may not sound appealing, sticking your feet out of the covers may assist you in nodding off.

“Having cool extremities can help you sleep,” Dr Ramlakhan said.

“So having your feet out of the duvet or blankets, and the body snug and warm is ideal for good sleep.”

Dr Van den Heuvel added: “To drop the core temperature, the body needs to act like a radiator, with heat from the central core transferring to areas such as the hands, face and feet.”

“[This causes] the peripheral skin temperature to rise and then lose heat to the surrounding environment.”

Heating can also dry out a room, reducing the moisture in our nose and nasal membranes.

This can lead to inflammation that narrows the airways, triggering snoring.

Sadly, there is no perfect formula when it comes to a good night’s rest.

“Having a well-ventilated room with a window slightly open, can help create an optimum temperature for a good night’s sleep,” Dr Ramlakhan said.

“However, every human has a unique relationship with sleep and temperature.

“The key is to find a temperature that suits your sleeping needs.”

Dr Simran Deo - GP at Zava - claims most do well with a room temperature between 16°C (60.8°F) and 18°C (64.4°F), with anything less than 12°C (53.6°F) being “too cold for comfort”.

If an open window in mid November sounds a bit too intense, Dr Ramlakhan also recommends keeping eucalyptus oil on your bedside table.

“Apply a dab to your forehead between your eyebrows,” she said.

“This can create a feeling of coolness on the face, which helps you fall asleep.

“You can keep this handy near your bed and reapply if you wake up during the night.”

READ MORE: Natural remedies for dry skin

As well as leaving us feeling sleepy the next day, nodding off with the heating on exposes our skin to warm temperatures for longer than if it was just on in the day.

“Many find their skin is drier in the winter and there’s no doubt central heating plays a part in this,” Dr Deo told Yahoo UK.

“It dries out the air, causing the moisture in your skin to evaporate quicker, making it feel drier.

“As well as dry skin it also dries out the mucus membranes that line your lips and sinuses, leading to chapped lips, a dry nose - making you more susceptible to nosebleeds - and a dry throat - which can feel sore or make your voice hoarse.”

While many may be reluctant to turn their thermostat down, prepping the skin before bed could make all the difference.

“Try using a thick moisturiser before bed to help prevent your skin drying out at night,” Dr Yeo said.

“People with very dry skin or eczema benefit from an emollient cream, which coats the skin in a protective layer to keep the moisture in.”

Adjusting your daily routine during the winter months could also help.

“If you tend to bathe at night, take short baths or showers in warm water rather than hot, as this can strip the skin of its natural oils,” Dr Yeo said.

“And remember to moisturise afterwards whilst the skin is still damp to ensure maximum absorption.

“It’s a good idea to stay hydrated too.

“We tend not to feel as thirsty when the weather is colder but staying hydrated with water or caffeine-free hot drinks, like herbal teas, are a really good way of putting moisture back into the skin.”

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