Rainbow, argyle or striped? It's your choice. Dr. Tracey Marks explains why adding socks to your bedtime wardrobe may help you sleep better.
Why would anyone recommend wearing socks at bedtime? It turns out that warming your skin before sleep might actually help you sleep.
Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day and this variance follows a Circadian (24 hour) pattern. That is, there are certain times of the day when your body temperature is high and other times when it is at its lowest. Typically, our lowest body temperature is in the early morning hours, between 3 and 5 am.
Likewise, a powerful trigger for sleep is a drop in body temperature. You become sleepy as your body temperature drops. The steeper the drop in temperature, the better.
Researchers have shown (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.bov/pubmed/18192289?dopt=Abstract) that warming your skin prior to bedtime can increase the slope of your body's temperature drop which ultimately helps you fall asleep. They also observed that skin warming improved slow wave sleep, which is the deep sleep you need to feel fully rested.
What are some ways to warm your skin?
Well, you can take a warm bath an hour or two before bedtime. This will warm your body initially. Then, as your body temperature cools, you will get sleepy. This is a great pre-bedtime activity in the fall and winter, but it does take some planning to include it as an evening ritual. It can also be a bit much in the summer heat.
However, since the skin is a continuous organ, the skin on your feet is the same as the skin on the rest of your body. So, instead of taking a warm bath, you can accomplish the same sense of temperature rise by wearing socks to bed, which will warm your feet and subsequently warm the rest of your body. This body warming has been shown to be associated with improved sleep quality (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17070562).
Keep in mind that your body temperature fluctuates throughout the night and that you may find that as the night progresses, your feet may get too warm; especially if your overall room temperature is not very cool. How warm your feet may feel varies by the individual, but no worries! If you feel a little too toasty down below, simply slip your socks off.
As you age, your body is less able to regulate its own temperature. Studies have shown this effect to be more pronounced in elderly people. Therefore, this can be a simple way for an older person, or, someone with poor circulation, to sleep better.
However, for anyone who loves the feel of warm, cozy feet, know that your favorite sleep socks are not just for the winter. Keeping your feet covered can help you get better zzz's all year round, even in the heat of summer.
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