Your circadian rythm controls everything. It also controls your body temperature which a a very important aspect when it comes to quality sleep.
The circadian rythm is designed to keep you awake during the day and asleep during the night. It also does that by controlling your body temperature. At noon time the core body temperature begins to rise, peaking late in the afternoon. The temperature then begins to decline as bedtime approaches.
The body temperature reaches it’s lower point around 2am. This cycle does not depend on sleep itself. Even if you were to stay awake all night, your temperature would still show the same pattern. This is how important the circadian rythm is.
What is also very important is that this temperature drop helps us to fall asleep. This is actually probably the most important factor determining the ease with which you will fall asleep tonight.
Why is temperature important
You probably have experienced how difficult it is to sleep and maintain sleep when it is very hot outside. You keep waking up or turning around correct?
To successfully initiate and maintain sleep into the night, your body temperature needs to decrease by 1-2 degrees Celcius. For this reason you will find it easier to fall asleep in a room that is too cold then too hot, since the a room that is too cold is at least bringing your brain and body in the correct, downward, temperature direction.
The decrease in the core temperature is detected by a group of cells in the brain within the hypothalamus. Once the core termperature drops in the evening these cells will deliver a message (to the suprachiamsatic nucleus) to release melatonin.
As the body is a complex, multi-dimentional system, it is not only the light but also the temperature that signals that it is time to go to bed.
- You core body temperature helps with releasing melatonin and to get you into sleep.
How it works
Your body is not passive in the process of regulating it’s temperature. It is quite active and uses the surface of the skin for this reason and specifically through the hands, the feet and head.
All these three areas are rich in blood vessels which will allow blood to be spread across a large surface area of the skin and will come in close contact with the air that surrounds it. The hands, feet and head are very efficient in releasing heat so as to drop your core temperature.
That is why warm feet help with sleeping. They are inducing your core temperature to drop. In the same way water helps dissipate heat from the surface of the skin faster!
Controlling you core temper is really simple. Here are some techniques to help you drop your body temperature before going to sleep. Aim for a core body temperature of 18°C.
- Avoid eating before going to bed: Digeston is a very taxing process which raises the body temperature. Avoid eating for 2-3 hours before going to bed.
- Don’t exercise close to bed: Moderate exercise during the day can be very beneficial to sleep, as it expends energy and helps you feel more tired in the evening. However, exercising close to bedtime can cause your body temperature to spike. This can make it more difficult to fall asleep at your desired time.
- Sleep light: Avoid pyjamas and heavy blankets
- Invest in the right mattress and pillow: Your bed can play a major role in how comfortable you feel during the night. Mattresses made with thick foams tend to absorb and trap body heat, causing you to feel excessively warm. Other mattresses sleep cool by comparison thanks to components like ventilated latex and open coil systems that circulate air throughout the interior. Cooling pillows can have the same effect. Certain pillows can be heat traps, but other types of pillows – such as wool provide above-average temperature control. Check out Bio-Pur as an example or the state of the art Chili-Pad
- Take a hot bath: My favourite tip! A hot bath will dilate your skin blood vessels by bringing more blood to the surface. This will help release heat from your core and decrease your termerature after you leave the bath.
- Wear socks: For the same reason as the hot bath you want to keep your feet warm to allow heat to be released. If your feet and hands are cold then the body restrict the blow flow those areas in an attempt to maintain the core temperature stable.
We all know stress is a big factor when sleeping. Now you know why. As your tryptophan levels drop, so do your serotonin levels. Suddenly you’re depressed, and you find yourself bingeing on chocolate and carbs. What’s more, with your serotonin levels tumbling, you don’t have enough serotonin to make melatonin, so you can’t sleep. The key to keeping your tryptophan from being stolen is to identify your stressors.
By implementing stress reduction techniques, you can turn your tryptophan into feel-good serotonin and sleep-well melatonin. Pratice breathing for a few minutes every day to help you wind down and be relaxed.
Exercise and even walking can do wonders for your Tryptophan levels which you can always have some healthy carbs with your evening meal to help you get naturally into sleep!