How To Keep Warm (Without Overheating) On Cold Winter Nights
When temperatures dip below freezing, you know it’s time to break out your wool socks and fleece-lined everything. But what about at night? Thick, furry clothes keep you warm during the day but tend to feel stifling when you sleep.
According to Mattress Advisor’s most recent survey, 58 percent of people typically sleep unclothed, and many others sleep partially clothed or in shorts and a t-shirt. If you dislike the cling or heaviness of winter clothes while you sleep, it’s all up to your bedding to keep warm on winter nights. That said, you still don’t want to get too warm, which can make you sweat. And you want to avoid the claustrophobic feel of heavy blankets.
Thankfully, there is a way to sleep “just right”—not too hot, not too cold. With the right bedding, you can get a good night’s rest under the covers no matter the weather.
Bedding and Biology
To understand what type of bedding works best in winter, you may need a quick refresher on what happens while your body sleeps. Thermoregulation—how mammals maintain a healthy body temperature—may sound complicated, but you only need to know the basics to pick the right bedding.
The Body’s Built-in Thermostat
Before bed, your core temperature naturally starts to fall and continues to drop throughout the night. While your temperature only fluctuates by a few degrees, the dip helps the body conserve energy and use it for other critical functions while you sleep.
The sleep-wake cycle is a circadian rhythm, meaning it follows a 24-hour cycle. When it’s time to get ready for bed, the body releases melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone.” Your core temperature starts to fall in response to higher melatonin levels, hits its lowest point in the early morning, then slowly rises as you start your day.
If My Temperature Drops, Why Do I Feel Hot While I Sleep?
It may sound contradictory, but this drop in body temperature is often what causes overheating and sweating during sleep. When excess heat exits the body, it typically disperses into the surrounding air. However, if you sleep under heavy blankets and sheets without ventilation, the heat has nowhere to go.
Trapped beneath the covers with the hot air, you’ll likely sweat to try and cool off, which only makes matters worse. If your bedding doesn’t allow easy airflow, the sweat won’t evaporate. Instead, it creates a boggy, humid atmosphere under the covers. Unable to cool down, your body will keep perspiring, creating even more hot air and moisture.
Body temperature drops in preparation for sleep regardless of the external temperature. Without the right bedding, the excess heat can make you sweat, even if it's below freezing outside. If you overheat in your sleep, you’ll likely throw off the covers to cool down, just to wake up a few minutes later, this time from shivering.
How can you avoid this cycle and sleep comfortably on cold nights? The key to winter warmth without overheating or sweating is temperature-regulating bedding.
Insulating vs. Temperature-Regulating Materials
Adding more or thicker layers to your bedding may sound like a simple and obvious solution to winter chills, but it will only trigger the cycle described above. Instead of grabbing extra throw blankets or buying heavy flannel sheets, opt for temperature-regulating materials like bamboo, eucalyptus, linen, or lightweight cotton.
The key to winter warmth without overheating or sweating is temperature-regulating bedding.
Temperature-regulating materials work in harmony with the body’s natural thermoregulation. Unlike thick, tightly-woven fabrics, they don’t insulate heat, which causes you to sweat and traps humidity. Rather, they wick moisture and allow easy airflow, maintaining the comfortable temperature that your body sets.
Under temperature-regulating bedding, your body will naturally rest at the right temperature. Technically, your core temperature will drop a couple of degrees while you sleep, but you’ll still feel the perfect amount of warmth if your bedding lets your body maintain a consistent temperature. Because temperature-regulating materials preserve the ideal temperature your body sets, they keep you comfortable just as well in the summer as they do in the winter.
The Best Cold-Weather Bedding
Now that you know all about the benefits of temperature-regulating materials, you likely want to start shopping for better bedding!
When looking for new bed sheets, blankets, comforters, or duvet covers, look for these temperature-regulating characteristics:
Lightweight and Breathable– For fabrics, weight and breathability typically go hand-in-hand. Temperature-regulating bedding uses lightweight materials with loose knits or weaves, allowing air to flow in and out. This lets your skin breathe, gives your body’s excess heat somewhere to go, and keeps you from feeling trapped under the covers.
Moisture Wicking– Temperature-regulating materials keep you dry and maintain a steady temperature by eliminating moisture before it builds into a humidity bubble beneath your sheets.
Moisture-wicking fabrics take care of perspiration before it becomes an issue. If you sweat in your sleep, the material will pull the moisture away from your body and toward the surface of the blanket or sheet. Once the moisture makes its way to the surface, it quickly evaporates.
- Soft and Smooth– Regardless of the season, you want bedding that’s soft to the touch and doesn’t cause friction. The material should create coziness without feeling heavy or clingy. Many temperature-regulating materials, such as bamboo, offer a silk-like texture that soothes the skin year-round.
Sleep Better With Bamboo
Among the temperature-regulating materials commonly used for bedding, we believe bamboo is the best option. Bamboo fabrics check off all the boxes listed above, plus they’re naturally hypoallergenic. Bedding made from bamboo is also more sustainable than synthetic materials and more affordable than other premium natural materials like eucalyptus and silk.
Nolah offers a complete line of bamboo bedding and mattress accessories. Our offerings include a bamboo sheet set, pillowcase pack, duvet cover, comforter, blanket, throw blanket, weighted blanket, mattress pad, and waterproof mattress protector. You can read here to learn more about the benefits of bamboo bedding.
Embrace Lighter Layers
Whether you buy bamboo bedding or opt for another temperature-regulating material, we recommend you buy a few layers. Having multiple, lightweight layers of temperature-regulating bedding will help you sleep comfortably all year long. It’ll also save you money since you won't need different bedding for each season. Instead, you can add or subtract layers when the seasons change.
In the fall and winter, you’ll likely want a comforter or duvet, a blanket or two, and bedsheets. If you get a little toasty, you can always push away the top layer. When it’s warmer out, just the bed sheets and comforter or duvet will do. With light bedding, you can use the same sheets and top layer year-round and adjust the number of middle layers as necessary.
Final Tips for Sleeping Better in the Winter
Once you have the right temperature-regulating bedding, you’re ready for comfortable sleep, even on the coldest nights. And when winter turns to spring and then summer, you’ll sleep at the perfect temperature under the same sheets.
Aside from investing in high-quality, temperature-regulating bedding, what can you do to sleep well on winter nights? We’ll leave you with a few tips for sleeping through the night even when temperatures plunge.
Turn Down Your Thermostat
Turning your thermostat down a few degrees before heading to bed will help maintain the natural drop in body temperature that occurs while you sleep. You want your bedroom slightly cooler at night than during the day; otherwise, you may overheat and start the cycle of sweat.
Use a Humidifier
A lot of people struggle to sleep in winter because of the air’s dryness, which can dry out your nasal passage and throat. Running a humidifier puts some moisture back in the air and helps you breathe freely, reducing sleep disruptions.
Get Plenty of Sun, Even If It’s Cold
During the winter, people tend to stay indoors and thus get far less natural light than during the warmer months. Lack of sunlight exposure can throw off your circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and wake up on a schedule. If you can’t get outside due to freezing temperatures, consider using a sun lamp.