Foot-bathDr. Oz’s tip for curing insomnia—wearing heated rice footsies to bed (see my blog last March)—may have led to second- and third-degree burns for TV viewer Frank Dietl, but Oz is not responsible for the injuries, the New York Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 3. Judge Saliann Scarpulla dismissed the lawsuit against Oz, saying that there was no “duty of care between a television talk-show host and his vast home-viewing audience.”

Moral of story? Take the advice of tele-evangelist health gurus with a grain of salt. Frankly, some of Dr. Oz’s tips on insomnia sound pretty lame. Eat lots of gelatin to combat sleeplessness? Puh-lease!

But let’s get back to the notion that heating the extremities might help to promote sleep. Particularly in people who normally can’t sleep until late at night, this may be a useful strategy.

Body Temperature and Sleep

The rhythm of your core body temperature has a strong effect on when you feel sleepy; you start feeling sleepy when your temperature is going down. People who have trouble falling asleep until very late may have internal clocks that run on a 25-hour day, a recent study in the Journal of Sleep Research shows, delaying the downturn in temperature and the onset of sleep.

Light exposure in the morning and melatonin supplements in the evening may be the best remedies for people with longer-than-normal circadian temperature periods. But a warm footbath before bed may also help.

Why It May Work

Most heat loss occurs through the hands and feet, and heating the extremities hastens heat loss by dilating blood vessels. This allows for the swift release of body heat and a lowering of core body temperature, in turn helping promote sleep. So hot footbaths and warm socks may be a good idea for people who struggle to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

But a new study from Taiwan confirms the results of an older study showing that footbaths prior to sleep do not alter sleep patterns in older adults. Heating the extremities may only help with sleep if you’re young or middle aged.

Do you bathe at night and/or wear socks to bed? Have you noticed it has any effect on your sleep?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.

2 Comments

  1. I have a couple of pr. of extra-soft hand knit socks that never leave the bedside (except for laundering!) I often pull them off somewhere around 4 a.m., but they definitely help with falling asleep initially ~~ and a very soft sweater helps start me off as well (which also gets peeled off who-knows-when.)

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  2. Soft, warm socks really can help with falling asleep.

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