How to set up a great winter sleep routine

A poor night’s sleep can leave you feeling grumpy, unmotivated and cold. Here is how to make sure you are getting enough shut-eye this winter.

Switching to the flannelette sheets and fleecy PJs for the cooler months ahead is a good start to staying snug at bedtime.

But did you know there’s another factor that may be impacting your body temperature?

A lack of good quality sleep.

The connection between sleep and body temperature

Associate Professor Christopher Gordon of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, says body temperature and sleep are intricately linked.

“You fall asleep when you’re dropping your body temperature at its maximal amount,” Assoc Prof Gordon says.

“You can’t feel it because it’s in a very narrow range, and you wake up when your temperature starts increasing.”

Assoc Prof Gordon says your body temperature oscillates during the day and night – it’s warmest in the early to late afternoon, and lowest around 3 or 4am.

“What happens is when people are sleep deprived, that oscillation doesn’t occur as much, and people can get the perception of feeling cold.”

Headspace App clinical psychologist Mary Spillane says sleep deprivation can affect the body’s thermometer.

“So, just like your immune system might be low or your mood might be impacted, it can also make it harder for your body to regulate its temperature,” Mary says.

Ways to improve your sleep routine

So how can we up our chances of getting a great sleep – particularly when we may be exercising less, and filling our bellies with comfort food?

Develop a sleep routine

“Timing is crucial, so try to get yourself into a regular routine, irrespective of what you have got on for the day,” Mary says.

“I always tell people to try to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get up at the same time.

“Of course, that’s not always going to be possible and you have to have some flexibility in there but if you are trying to do those things, that just helps prompt yourself to start getting sleepy.”

Create optimal conditions for sleep

Assoc Prof Gordon suggests keeping your room slightly cooler overnight – about 18 degrees – and avoiding anything that speeds up your metabolism before bed.

“So don’t exercise heavily before you go to sleep, don’t have a really hot shower,” he says.

“Don’t eat spicy foods and a heavy meal, don’t drink a lot of alcohol.”

Also ensure your room is as quiet and dark as possible, and that you haven’t gone overboard with your sleep attire.

“You actually overheat and you get too hot and your body temperature is trying to do the opposite.”

Take the pressure off sleep

If you’re stressed or worried, sleep can often feel impossible.

But Mary says what we tell ourselves is vitally important.

“I tend to tell people with those sorts of issues to try to take the pressure off sleeping, and to just tell themselves they’re in bed and they’re relaxing their body and their mind,” she says.

“If they sleep that’s good but if they spend the night lying there and resting their body, that’s better than nothing.”

Mary says you can also calm your mind by avoiding screens too close to bedtime, journalling, trying deep breathing or mindfulness, or listening to a sleepcast.

Written by Larissa Ham.