Healthy Living

Get Better Sleep: Feet Outside The Blanket Regulate Body Temperature Better, Help You Sleep More

Sleep Hack
Ever wonder why you stick your foot out of the blankets while you sleep? It turns out that doing so helps you regulate body temperature, and exploiting it may help you get to sleep faster. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The summer’s not over yet, and our nights are guaranteed to remain unbearably hot and humid — if you’re living on the rainy east coast at least. In dealing with this, many of us end up with an air conditioner blasting as we’re bundled up under the (usually thick) covers. It almost seems counterproductive, but finding the right temperature to sleep in is essential for a good rest.

Specifically, sleeping with one foot outside of your covers can put you to bed faster and deeper, a reporter for New York Magazine recently discovered, after a discussion with her friend. Both of them had slept with a foot out in the open, and surely, countless others have woken up to find that one foot, or an entire leg, was out from underneath the blanket. The reason? Our feet help us maintain a lower temperature, which is key.

Natalie Dautovich, a spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation and psychology professor at the University of Alabama, told New York Magazine that the foot comes out because it’s one of the best parts of the body for getting rid of heat (not the head). Feet are not only devoid of hair, but because they are two of our extremities, they contain structures known as arteriovenous anastomoses, which link arteries to veins before the two can meet in capillaries. When it’s warm, these structures dilate, allowing more blood to reach the skin surface in order to cool down.

Dautovich said that our body temperatures already begin to drop before we go to sleep (only one to two degrees), and then drop further when we’re sleeping, reaching their lowest point when we’re fast asleep. Sleeping under the covers, however, gets really warm, especially when sharing the blanket with someone else. So our feet come out.

“I think it’s likely in service of trying to cool our bodies down because we’ve gotten too warm to sleep,” Dautovich said. “Sticking your toe out, or your foot out, could bring you to a more restorative sleep.” Doing so while trying to get to sleep may be a way to hack into a better sleep, along with taking a warm shower or drinking something warm before bed — both get the body to cool down.

Ideally, a person who wants to get a good night's sleep should try to keep their surrounding temperatures somewhere between 75 and 54 degrees. But experts agree that keeping temperatures on the lower side will help the body reach a deeper sleep. So with that said, blasting the air conditioner might not be the best idea. Instead, keep it at a comfortable temperature, and far away from letting its air hit you directly. 

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