The Matt Walker Podcast

#14: Temperature – Part 2

January 31, 2022 Dr. Matt Walker Episode 14
The Matt Walker Podcast
#14: Temperature – Part 2
Show Notes

In the previous episode, Matt described the role of temperature in helping us fall asleep. In this episode, Matt teaches us all about the role of temperature in helping us stay asleep across the night, and then more effectively wake up the following morning.

First, Matt takes us back to the body temperature suit experiments that were able to warm or cool different parts of the body. Matt explains that, using this same method, when you continue to cool the body throughout the first and middle parts of the night, enhance the ability of individuals to stay asleep more soundly across the night, increase the amount of deep sleep, and boost the electrical quality of that deep sleep.

Matt explains why a warm bath or shower before bed helps you sleep, perhaps for the opposite reasons you think. It is not that you get warm and toasty ready for bed. Instead, when you get out of the bath or shower, all of the blood races to the surface of your skin. As a result, your core body temperature plummets, enabling you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep more easily.

Matt also discusses how external ambient room temperature impacts our sleep at night. He notes that the optimal temperature for sleep at night for the average adult is between 16-18 degrees Celsius, or 61-65 degrees Fahrenheit, although everyone will be a little bit different, of course.

Finally, Matt explores the effect of temperature on waking up. He notes that as you move into those late morning hours of sleep, particularly as you start to enter the REM sleep-rich phases of your sleep cycle later in the morning, your central brain temperature rises significantly. 

Indeed, it is in the last 30 minutes before people would naturally wake up in the morning that their body temperature starts to increase markedly. Matt goes on to describe how this increase in temperature is a signal that triggers the beginning of the awakening process.

Related to this, Matt notes that waking up can be challenging for many people, especially if you're not sleeping in synchrony with your chronotype. However, Matt suggests that one way you can facilitate the process of waking up more effectively is by trying to warm up the ambient temperature of the bedroom in the last 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. So if you have a smart thermostat, try to program it to increase the temperature to around 21 degrees Celsius or approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 30 minutes before your alarm goes off.

The bottom line is that many of us don’t realize how important temperature is to falling asleep, staying asleep, and enjoying an enlivened awakening the next morning.

Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.

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