How the Fall Weather Affects Your Sleep

How the Fall Weather Affects Your Sleep

This morning I woke up feeling chilly and donned my favorite fall sweater. Just thinking the words “fall sweater” instantly made me feel cozier, and let’s face it, sleepier.

Along with finally utilizing the neglected half of my closet, fall means I no longer need a fan blowing directly on my face to help me sleep. In fact, I added more blankets to my bed. I couldn’t be the only one feeling the benefits of a cooled down bedroom, right?

With the fall temperatures only getting cooler, I wondered if cold nights actually were more conducive to sleep, or if it was just my new fuzzy blanket making it harder to get out of bed in the morning.

The best sleeping temperature

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the temperature most conducive to a solid night’s sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. My weather forecast the past week had been predicting between 55 and 70 degrees, so things were lining up already.

This optimal temperature also explains why it is harder to fall asleep in the hot, humid summer months (most of which are spent craving cooler temperatures). The article says that “your body temperature decreases as part of the sleep initiation process, and this range of temperature is thought to actually help facilitate this decrease.”

I had no idea that as I lazily drifted off each night, my body was adjusting and regulating my temperature. Apparently, this is affected by our circadian rhythm, which not only adjusts our body temperatures but our sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits, and digestion.

So how much does temperature really affect sleep?

In a study on the effects of thermal environment on sleep and the circadian rhythm, researchers explain that the regulation of body temperature helps us fall and stay asleep. Because the body temperature “decreases during the nocturnal sleep phase and increases during the wake phase,” the body usually falls asleep when the overall core body temperature is lower.

The study also explains how the presence of clothing and bedding can greatly affect your nightly sleep. In semi-nude participants, “increases in wakefulness are greater in cold than in heat.” However, when clothing and bedding were added, the results reversed. With clothing, participants were more likely to be disturbed by hotter temperatures.

I’m going to go ahead and make the (perhaps bold) assumption you typically sleep with clothes on. And that you use some type of bedding. In this case, it is more likely that hot temperatures will disrupt your sleeping patterns than a cool autumn breeze.

If the fall nights are bringing a new-found chill to your home, make sure you A. start wearing clothes to bed, and B. equip yourself with the proper sheets and blankets.

Can the darker days play a role too?

I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling sleepier as the days got gloomier. In fact, it can be more than just temperature that affects sleep, but the changed lighting of the fall and winter months.

The New York Times article “How Not to Feel Dead Tired this Winterstates that “light controls our circadian rhythm. Its presence suppresses the flow of the sleep hormone melatonin; its absence encourages it.”

Gloomy days with earlier nights can make your body go into hibernation mode. Studies show that a decrease in light leads to an increase in melatonin, which boosts your sleepiness levels.

Does fall have your room feeling like winter?

  • Use warmer sheets, like flannel or cotton.
  • Add blankets either beneath or on top of your comforter. Maybe even try a heated blanket—just be sure to turn it off before bed!
  • Make sure all windows are closed and fans are off.
  • Use fuzzy socks to keep your feet warm.
  • Treat yourself to a warm sleepytime tea.

Is summer still lingering in your bedroom?

  • Try using cooler sheets, such as linen.
  • Sleep with the A/C or a fan. If possible, set a timer on your unit or fan to save energy after you fall asleep.
  • Turn off as many lights as possible before sleeping.
  • Use an ice pack to cool down.
  • Drink ice water before bed.

Before you jump in bed for the night, check your thermostat to see if it is in the optimal range of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. As for me, it seems as if the fall weather has already cooled my bedroom down to that perfect temperature for ZZZs.

Featured image: @taylorbuckk