environmental heatStruggling to sleep through soaring temperatures is a matter of concern for many people around the world.

Sleep and body control of temperature (thermoregulation) are interlinked in a complex way.  Core body temperature follows a 24-hour cycle linked with the sleep-wake rhythm. Body temperature decreases during the night-time sleep phase and rises during the wake phase.

Maximum probability for sleep to occur is when core temperature is on decrease. This probability is minimum when the core temperature is on rise.Human hands and feet play a key role in facilitating sleep as they permit the heated blood from the central body to lose heat to the environment through the skin surface.

The sleep hormone melatonin plays an important part of the complex loss of heat through the peripheral parts of the body. At the onset of the sleep , core body temperature falls but peripheral skin temperature rises. But temperature changes become more complex during sleep as our temperature self-regulation varies according to sleep stage.

Researchers have established with sufficient evidences as how environmental heat can disturb this delicate balance between sleep and body temperature. An ambient temperature of 22? or 23? Celsius is ideal. Any major variation in this leads to disturbance of sleep with reduced slow wave sleep (a stage of sleep where the brain’s electrical wave activity slows and the brain “rests”), and also results in less dreaming sleep (rapid eye movement or REM sleep).

As a matter of fact , during REM sleep, our ability to regulate body temperature is impaired so in a clever sort of way the body “avoids” this stage of sleep during extreme cold or heat.

A typical  heat wave have all the reasons to cause several nights of fragmented sleep with less slow wave and REM sleep. This will certainly cause a correct perception of bad, restless sleep with consequent negative effects on mood and alertness.

The outcomes of such factors may have subtle effects such as problems with complex memory retention, higher judgement (poorer decision making and increased risk-taking behaviour), blood pressure control and regulation of glucose in the body.

One of the safe and healthy mode would be to sleep in a carefully controlled air-conditioned environment during the heatwave times. Sleeping in the lateral position (on your side) with less contact with the mattress may be good but the body tends to do this anyway during sleep, in response to rising temperatures. Cooling the central body with a wet cloth or towel is also a better way. A cool shower may also be tried upon. It is important to avoid doing anything too strenuous in the hours before bed-time as this will make it harder for the body temperature to fall during sleep.

Instead of waking up hot, sticky and irritated and trying to be extra-cautious in other terms it is better following healthy-wise sleeping practices. Just remember that the heat-wave will never pardon you in any way.

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Filed under: Other DisordersSleepSleep ApneaSleep DeprivationSleep DisordersSleep Problems

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