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14 February 2017

Sensitive to the Cold? Your Sleep Pattern could be to Blame

We’re nearing the time of the year when skies stay lighter for longer. Elongated days are happy news for those in need of vitamin D, but chillingly brutal as the temperatures begin to drop. This year in particular is quite bad in the UK with sub-zero temperatures expected this month. In such weather many people find staying warm almost impossible. No matter how many layers or blankets, some people simply can’t get warm. The everlasting chill might not have anything to do with the weather.

As we wear in the New Year with resolutions and Valentine’s Day surprises, we often forget to take the time to look after ourselves. I don’t mean in the sense of dieting. I’m sure your New Year’s diet is in full swing and (hopefully) chugging along successfully. What I’m referring to is the often neglected good night’s sleep. For many sleep is a necessary act that is dreaded rather than revered. It is disliked by college-goers and scorned by kids; confusingly so for sleep is much more than simply resting, it is a reparative process.

Sleep is Essential

If you’re having a hard time getting warm, you may want to count the number of hours you sleep every night. People who experience perpetual cold may be suffer from being overly-tired, says Professor Russell Foster, a neuroscientist and director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford.

Sleep deprivation raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Heightened levels of cortisol in the body trigger a defensive response in the body, “blood is diverted to where it is most needed – major organs,” said Foster, “This means that it’s taken away from where it’s less important, such as in the extremities and the surface of the skin.” Less blood circulating activates the cold receptors in the skin.

The body clock, also referred to as the body’s circadian rhythm, is an underestimated mechanism. It regulates functions within the body to prepare for rising and resting. Disruption of normal happenings can leave the body in a state of confusion. For example, if you normally prepare for sleep at a certain time then body temperature drops in response. As a result, staying up later than usual can leave a person feeling cold all over.

Sean Cain from Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep Medicine said, “This temperature clock will keep running even if you stay up all night, causing you to feel cold at the time you’d also be feeling the most fatigued. So tiredness and temperature follow the same pattern, but they’re separate outputs of the circadian clock.”

According to Cain, the body will vary its temperature by about 2 degrees throughout the day. As the body prepares for work throughout the day, the body is warm. During the evening as you wind down, the body is colder, corresponding with a decrease in energy. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).