Is Sleeping with the Heat on Bad for You?

During these long winter nights, it is all too tempting to sleep with the heat on. Who doesn’t want to be cozy when it’s cold outside? However, recent studies show that your decision to sleep with the heat on might not be in your best interest. In fact, it could be the reason you consistently wake up feeling under the weather and dehydrated. The use of the heater disrupts your circadian rhythm and ignores natural body temperature fluctuations.

Caring for your Circadian Rhythm

The National Sleep Foundation explains that your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour inner-clock. It’s what tells your body when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up. It is controlled by the hypothalamus. This part of the brain picks up light and temperature signals to maintain a normal cycle. This is one of the many reasons that exposing yourself to light before bedtime or turning on the heater before bed can be damaging to the quality of your sleep. Without a natural drop in nighttime temperatures, your body receives conflicting signals, which could lead to initial insomnia.

In addition, leaving the heater on could result in disrupted sleep throughout the night. As Professor Jason Ellis explained to Her Magazine, the body naturally cools slightly before bed but grows warmer as morning approaches. What was a comfortable temperature when you first went to sleep is therefore likely to leave you covered in a thin layer of sweat by morning. The discomfort you feel when overheated disrupt your normal sleep cycle. When combined, overheating and disturbed sleep results in you waking up feeling lethargic and dehydrated. In fact, one survey showed that 47% of people who sleep with the heat on wake up feeling physically ill.

Alternative Options

If sleeping with the heater on is an ingrained habit, then it may be time to consider alternative ways of keeping you comfortable right before bed. Turning the heater on for an hour or so before bed and then turning it off is a viable option for most locations. However, if you live in a region vulnerable to extreme cold, then consider using an electric blanket.

There are many high-quality brands on the market that include automatic shut-off features, which typically provide warmth for 30-45 minutes. With these blankets, you can always pre-warm your bed if you’re concerned with possible safety risks, especially if you live in an older home with original wiring. Another plug-free alternative is to make your own corn heating pad. These can be put in the microwave and provide heat that lasts 20-30 minutes. The general idea is to find a way of providing heat while you’re falling asleep that will naturally cool as your body starts to warm up.

Dealing with Sleep Disorders

If you’re waking up feeling tired or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, there are many small changes you can try. Limiting screen time before bed, turning off the heater, and keeping a regular schedule are just a few of them. However, if they aren’t making a difference, then you may have a sleep disorder.

Many people ignore the symptoms of sleep disorders. However, feeling tired throughout the day does more than just slow you down at work, it reduces your reaction times, and includes the risk of falling asleep at an unplanned time. Any of these can be detrimental to your occupational performance, your relationships, and your safety, so Dr. Shukla of Sleep MD argues that it is important that you seek medical attention for a sleep disorder as soon as possible.
With more than fifteen years of experience specializing in sleep medicine and pulmonology, Dr. Shukla can help you to identify the root cause of your symptoms and help you find the right treatment options for you.

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