The Best Temperature for Sleeping

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Young woman looking tired and yawning, struggling to get out of bed next to an alarm clock and holding pills. Knowing the best temperature for sleeping may lessen morning tiredness.Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome sufferers commonly experience insomnia, which is a malfunction of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, with the adrenal glands at the center of this axis. Insomnia complaints include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and general unrest. These lead to chronic tiredness and fatigue throughout the day, leaving you without energy to participate in daily life functions – taking a shower, making breakfast, getting kids to school, or getting to work. You are exhausted before the day has even begun. Your body requires sleep to regulate the HPA Axis, and at the same time, the HPA Axis needs to be regulated for you to get quality sleep. Is there an answer to this vicious cycle?

The adrenal glands produce, regulate, and secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which should be at its highest level in the morning when you need to be up and going, and the lowest level in the evening when you need to relax into a normal sleep pattern. When you have a normal sleep pattern, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. People suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome tend to have abnormally high cortisol levels, especially in the early stages of AFS, as excessive cortisol is produced to deal with the constant stress. This results in an inability to level off in the evening, which in turn leads to difficulty in falling asleep.

Looking at the relationship to the rest of the body, the adrenal glands need support from all of the body’s organs, systems, and chemical reactions for proper regulating of stress-regulating hormones. This is the neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response which describes how the brain, organs, and metabolism all work together to combat stress, and indicates the need to be evaluated and treated holistically. It is clear that one of the first steps you can take to fight AFS is to regulate cortisol levels, which means getting a good night’s sleep.

You are probably aware of some common methods for training your body to recognize the time to rest by lowering lighting, removing stimulating noise and electronic activity, breathing exercises, and slowing down early in the evening with a regulated bed-time. However, if these steps aren’t working for you, there may be a new answer. Studies show that core body temperature is actually more important than lighting and timing when it comes to telling your body to sleep.

The Best Temperature for Sleeping

A young woman sleeping peacefully, which the best temperature for sleeping assist withCurrent research studies have established a link between sleep and ambient room temperature, suggesting that the best temperature for sleeping is actually a few degrees lower than you may think is comfortable. In fact, experts are recommending that the best temperature for sleeping may be right around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Your core body temperature needs to drop a few degrees for the sleep instinct to kick in, so if your bedroom is the same temperature as it is during the day, your body will not receive that natural instinct message to tuck yourself in when it gets cool. Your core body temperature is regulated in the brain and the abdomen. Coincidentally, your cortisol levels are highest in the morning, when your core body temperature is lowest. “Temperature may have a much greater role in helping promote normal sleep than we previously thought,” says John Peever, a professor in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto. He says specific brain cells located in a region called the hypothalamus sense temperature changes in order to control sleep. You can use a programmable thermostat to help create a natural shift to cooler temperatures – set it to reduce the daytime temperature in your home to 65 degrees an hour or so before bedtime. If you tend to get cold at night, wearing socks can help keep warmth from escaping your extremities while still allowing your core body temperature to drop slightly. If you prefer to sleep under lots of blankets, you may need to drop the thermostat even lower – possibly as low as 60.8 degrees.

In addition to helping you fall asleep, a lower ambient temperature that allows the body’s core temperature to cool also promotes increased slow-wave, or deep sleep. When the brain experiences slow-wave sleep, you will have fewer instances of waking throughout the night, leading to the body’s natural ability to reduce production and release of cortisol until morning, when the body begins to warm and awaken. Incidentally, setting your programmable thermostat to rise back up to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit at or just before sunrise will induce a natural warming/wakening phase that will tell your body to produce and release the cortisol you need to help you through the stress of your morning routine.

Preparing for Sleep

A young woman relaxing in a bath, another tactic along with the best temperature for sleeping that can help with rest.In addition to lowering your bedroom temperature to the best temperature for sleeping, there are some other ways to support the cooling of your body’s core temperature. Taking a warm bath (around 102 degrees Fahrenheit) just before bed will help. As you leave the warm water and get to the cooler air, your body immediately begins to cool. “When you get out of the bath you cool down more quickly, which is what the body wants to do at bed time,” says James Horne, a Neuroscience professor at Loughborough University in England. His research has found that young, healthy people have about 10% more slow-wave sleep when they take a warm bath before bedtime. Wearing light sleep clothes and getting in bed right away will help tell your hypothalamus to cool off and stay cool. Once you have consistently dropped your environment temperature to the best temperature for sleeping, you should start seeing results of falling asleep and staying asleep longer with less waking throughout the night.

When your sleep pattern is regulated, your stress hormone cortisol becomes regulated, reducing the taxing job of the other organs, systems, and chemical reactions, and preventing them from going into overload to support the stressed adrenal glands. The NEM Stress Response will then be able to kick in, using a whole-body approach on a functional level to fight stress when it appears. Sleep, hormones, and proper organ function are all vital pieces of the body’s pathophysiological response in all stages of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Adjust your home to the best temperature for sleeping, take a warm bath just before bed, and wear socks if you tend to get cold. These steps may help you get a solid night’s sleep, allowing your adrenal glands to function properly and allow you to begin recovery from AFS.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

A young woman sleeping peacefully, which the best temperature for sleeping assist with
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I appreciate your help and knowledge. I'll finish reading the 'book' (your Adrenal Article). I was shocked that you had written back. Who has time to help so many? I can't figures it out, but I'll take all the help I can get. It is very much appreciated. According to you, I should be asleep now. Good night.