Many New Zealanders are likely to sleep too hot this winter, and a sleep expert recommends turning down the heater if they want optimum sleep.
According to Professor Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, most people sleep in an ambient bedroom temperature that is too high.
The neuroscientist and psychologist confirmed that the optimal bedroom temperature for an average adult to fall into a quality sleep is 16-18°Celsius. Anything higher is entering a range that promotes insomnia.
“We need to drop our core body and brain temperature by one degree Celsius to fall asleep and stay asleep. It's the reason that you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that's too cold than too hot, so make your bedroom cold and make it dark like a cave.”
Susie Harris, co-founder of Comfi, New Zealand’s first online bed store with a social purpose, said that some bed mattresses retain a lot of heat while older mattresses that sag can also lead to excessive heat retention, which can cause sleepers to overheat and wake up throughout the night.
“Beyond a hot bedroom and a saggy mattress, factors like bedding and individual metabolisms will also contribute to night sweats and interrupted sleep.
“A bed made of natural and more breathable fibres like wool and latex and made with pocket springs will improve your bed’s ventilation. Sleep deprivation can profoundly affect our mental, emotional, and physical health, and it’s our mission to help more Kiwis avoid this and enjoy quality sleep,” said Susie.
Getting a better night’s kip is a topic that attracts much advice. Comfi co-founder Vicki Eriksen, says that while plentiful, the advice can often be conflicting.
"We’re told to spray lavender mist before we go to bed - but to make sure our sheets are completely dry before getting in; to turn off our phones to block blue-screen toxicity – yet listen to a breathing app before we nod off; to remember to take our magnesium supplements – but choose from one of six different types in either powders or pills. Sleep advice can be conflicting, often expensive and overwhelming.”
To optimise sleep quality for those struggling to get a good night’s shuteye, Comfi and New Zealand sleep coach Gareth O’Donnell have compiled a list of seven less-known, evidence-based and cost-effective sleep hacks.
- Cold bedroom, hot feet. Comfi recommends falling asleep with a hot water bottle at your feet. Why? To transition into your first delta cycle (deep sleep), your body must be 36 degrees. Heat at your feet draws the heat away from your core and accelerates sleep initiation.
- Plants. Two human adults produce a lot of carbon dioxide in a small room. To combat this, the addition of a couple of medium-sized plants will increase oxygen and decrease the ambient room temperature, improving your sleep environment.
- 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning increases serotonin which is the precursor to the production of melatonin, which will aid in sleep maintenance.
- A consistent sleep schedule. Maintaining a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality.
- Gargling. For the noisy sleeper, chronic snorers and sleep apnoea types, three minutes of gargling before bed every day will improve uvula tone (the uvula is the little fleshy hanging ball in the back of your throat.
- Yin stretching. In yin yoga, each pose is held for three to 10 minutes, allowing deeper, less flexible tissues in your body the time to stretch and release stress. This, done daily before bed, can engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is essential for sleep.
- Learning new motor skills. Engaging in new physical tasks like changing your training programme, trying a new walking route or practising a new sport stimulates the part of the brain that controls R.E.M. encouraging quality dream sleep.
“Sleep is the most effective ritual we can do to help reset our brain and body health. It’s the ‘save button’ on a day of learning - without it, our brain’s inbox will shut down.
“How society operates profoundly depends on how much sleep we get. At an individual level, investing in our quality sleep is an act of self-care and kindness that we can offer to the people around us,” said Vicki.