Although there’s a scientific reason why we always sleep under blankets, it may be time to rethink that old habit. Research suggests that if you opt for a slightly chillier night of sleep instead of a warmer one, you could burn more calories and whittle your waistline while you sleep.
So how cold should you go? Around 66 degrees Fahrenheit may be the ideal temperature. According to a study published in the journal Diabetes in 2014, men who slept in rooms cooled to 66 degrees for a month increased their levels of calorie-burning brown fat by 42 percent and their ability to metabolize fat by 10 percent. The subjects also had an improvement in their insulin sensitivity, potentially lessening their risks of developing type 2 diabetes. While the study was small—five healthy men with an average age of 21—it suggests potentially exciting developments in the fights against obesity and diabetes.
Researchers believe that in a cool space, our bodies have to work harder to raise our core temperature to the normal 98.6 degrees. More work means more calories torched. “Lowering the room temperature before sleep turns on your body’s thermoregulatory functions to keep you warm,” explains Bridgette Agee, a registered nurse and the Bariatric Program Manager at the Marina Weight Loss Center at Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital in California, who was not involved in this study. “The action also activates brown fat cells that require energy from the white fat stores, and this borrowing of sorts helps to decrease the amount of white fat or ‘body fat’ in the body.” She adds that rest is essential during this process to rejuvenate or reset your metabolism.
While experts caution that exercise is essential to any meaningful weight loss (and to your overall health) and that the calorie-burning resulting from cooler bedroom temps may be relatively small, every little bit counts when you’re trying to shed pounds. (Check out these other ways you can literally lose weight in your sleep.)
Plus, weight loss isn’t the only potential perk of sleeping in a cold room. For starters, you’ll fall asleep easier, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You’ll also sleep better throughout the night. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology in 2012, snoozing in warmer temperatures can increase wakefulness and decrease both slow-wave and REM sleep. What’s more, humid heat increases the thermal load during sleep, impacting sleep stages and thermoregulation.
A good night of sleep can also lead to a host of other health benefits, such as protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, improving immune-system function, boosting your productivity, and combatting aging. The CDC notes that sleep can also can help to prevent or control a number of chronic illnesses, including diabetes (in even more ways than this particular study showed), cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. And, of course, let’s not forget that it can also improve your mood and just make you feel better.
All the more reason to turn down the thermostat tonight. Happy snoozing!
Don’t miss these 50 easy ways to sleep better.