A reader named Gunjan recently asked a question about trouble sleeping due to temperature changes at night. Here it is, lightly edited:
“It seems my body is very sensitive to temperature while I am sleeping. Many times it has happened that I went to bed at an optimal temperature. But as soon as my body sleeps, I wake up feeling too cold. Then I go to bed after switching off the fan or covering myself with the bed sheet but then I can’t sleep because I’m too hot. This is quite frustrating. . . . Does anybody . . . have any help to offer?”
Sunshine and warm weather are a boost to the spirit after a long, hard winter. But they may not do much for your sleep. In fact, if you’re sensitive to light and heat, long days and warm nights can be a setup for insomnia.
Here’s how to get more sleep as we move into June and July.
“I feel very anxious at night,” a reader recently wrote. “I tell myself that there is no reason to be anxious, but it feels almost physical. And it doesn’t matter what I do (meditation, relaxation), I still can’t sleep.”
Insomnia, many of us are told, is mainly a psychological problem. So the physical sensations that accompany it can be unnerving: the fluttering heartbeat, the muscle tension, the racing feeling radiating from torso to extremities, the overheating, the sweaty skin. Yet these sensations should tip us off that insomnia is not just in the head.
Could simply changing your thoughts about insomnia lead to better sleep? Some sleep therapists claim it works this way. They promote a process called “cognitive restructuring,” typically offered as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. It involves identifying negative thoughts about sleep and then challenging them. The goal is to wind up with thoughts that are more sleep friendly.
Sounds like a tall order, right? I agree. I’ll say up front that I had limited success with it myself. But the experts say this exercise is helpful for many who struggle with chronic insomnia. You may be one.
“Doesn’t everybody hate exercise?” a friend said as we were talking about ways to manage insomnia. It made me stop and think. I’ve known some couch potatoes in my day. Either they’re bored by anything not cerebral or they’re in thrall to their digital devices. Exercise can’t compete with their fascinating sedentary pursuits.
In this video book trailer, I talk about how I came to realize that exercise helps me sleep.
Some insomnia sufferers who visit my website head straight for the posts on sleep restriction. So I decided to create a video trailer where I could talk about my own experience of sleep restriction: how off-putting the idea was at first, and the results I later achieved.
Dr. 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. Moral of story? Take the advice of tele-evangelist health gurus with a grain of salt.
But let’s get back to the notion that heating the extremities might help to promote sleep. For some of us, this may be a useful strategy.
Statistics show that the incidence of insomnia increases with age.
Yet new research suggests it is more common among Americans aged 20-39 years than is generally believed. In a study released in July by the Harvard School of Public Health, 42 percent of the nearly 2,400 young adults surveyed reported having insomnia.