Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sleep Hack: Keep Your Feet Outside Your Covers


Introducing a slightly odd but potentially very useful sleep hack: Keep one foot, or both feet, outside of your blanket. It could help you both sleep better and fall asleep faster, a sleep researcher explained to Science of Us. 

I started thinking about this recently when I was idly chatting with a buddy about how (relatively) nice and cool it had been recently in New York, and how much nicer it is to sleep when it’s cooler outside. He replied with what is apparently his formula for a perfect night’s sleep: “One foot out from under the blanket and a nice breeze coming from the window.”

I do the same thing, I realized — keep my foot outside the covers — but I’ve never known why. A slow news day in August seemed as good as a time as any to find out, so I spoke with Natalie Dautovitch, a spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation and a psychology professor at the University of Alabama. Dautovitch’s research focuses on chronopsychology — that is, how our routines and biological rhythms fluctuate throughout the day and night, and how that affects our health and well-being. And while she said there’s never been any research specifically looking into my question, she was game to offer up a few theories based on her research.

What it comes down to, she thinks, is the connection between sleep and temperature. Sleep researchers know that right before you fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop; in the deepest stages of sleep, your body is at its coolest, about one or two degrees below normal. Some scientists believe cooler temperatures cause sleepiness, and although the pre-slumber cooling process happens naturally, there are a few things you can do to help it along, like taking a warm bath right before bed, for example. When you leave the tub, your body temperature rapidly cools, triggering that sleepy feeling. A warm beverage works the same way.

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