If you’re a natural-born shiverer in the bleak midwinter, the good news is that it’s much easier to warm your bed at night than it is to cool it in the summer.
For starters, your own body is a natural radiator that constantly generates warmth. While that can be a problem in warm weather, it’s a key part of the solution when the outside world freezes over.
In theory, if you have the right layers to trap some of the heat your body emits, you can keep your bed warm enough to sleep just by being there, and by being you.
However, it takes time to warm your bed that way, and nobody likes climbing between icy sheets when they’re supposed to be relaxing at the end of a long day. So if you live in a particularly cold area, it might help to use a bed heating system, as well as the right winter bedding.
Let’s take a look at some options you have for warming your bed and bedroom. Some are free, some cost money, and others just require some adjustments to the way you have the bedroom set up.
1. Heat your bedroom, not the whole house
It’s inefficient and potentially expensive to heat your entire home all night long. So on the coldest of nights, it might be better to just heat the bedroom and shut the door to keep the warmth in.
I also find it helps to put down a draft excluder, or any material you have to hand, at the base of the door if there’s a big gap.
2. Use flannel bedsheets in the winter
Flannel is a great choice of material for bedsheets in the winter. Flannel is cotton that’s been brushed to make it fluffy, rather than smooth like normal cotton sheets.
All that extra fluffiness means more air is trapped, which makes it a better insulator.
3. Create layers of top sheets and blankets
Rather than just using one thick blanket, comforter, or duvet, create layers instead. The idea is to create layers of insulation and trap air (which is a poor conductor of heat).
Layers also work well because you can remove them if you get too warm in the night. Try alternating between thinner and thicker layers to maximize the insulation effect.
If you don’t have the money to pay for expensive bed heating systems or luxury bedding, adding layers of any material can help enormously.
4. Choose a warmer duvet filling
If you’d prefer not to use materials derived from animals in the bedroom, synthetic fibers such as polyester, microfiber, or hollow fiber are good choices for warm material. Fortunately, they are all relatively inexpensive fillers and you can get high tog value (see below) duvets using these materials for a reasonable price.
Personally, I try to avoid synthetic materials in the summer because they usually feel too warm for my liking. But in the winter, I use a 13.5 tog hollow fiber duvet, and on the coldest of nights put a minky throw over the top for good measure. Not a lot of air flows through that lot, but it keeps us toasty!
If you don’t mind using animal products, a warm filling for duvets/comforters is goose or duck down. Another effective filler is wool, which traps air effectively, while still being more breathable than synthetic fillings.
What are tog values?
A “tog” is a unit used to measure the thermal resistance of a fabric, essentially indicating its insulating properties. The higher the tog value, the warmer the bedding.
Here’s a general rule of thumb for selecting tog values based on the season:
- Summer: 3.5 to 7.5 tog
- Spring and autumn: 7.5 to 10.5 tog
- Cold winters: 13.5 to 15 tog
Remember, these are just guidelines. Depending on individual preferences and specific climatic conditions, you might prefer slightly different tog values.
5. Choose warmer blanket materials
If you’re looking for a winter blanket, wool is one of the warmest natural materials you can choose, thanks to its crimped fibers that form insulating air pockets. You could also try fleece, which is a synthetic alternative that’s designed to emulate wool’s excellent insulating qualities.
Sheep’s wool is the most widely available type, but within this category, there are several luxurious varieties. Merino, Cashmere, Alpaca, Yak, or rare Qiviut all offer an upgrade to sheep’s wool, with a soft and warm feel.
Just be prepared for a bit of a shock when you see the price tag of a Merino wool blanket that’s big enough for a king-size bed!
6. Use heated bedding
Although it’s possible to warm your bed using just your own body heat and bedding, for some people it still might not be enough. If you dread getting into a cold bed every night, perhaps it’s time to warm it up before you transition from the cozy sofa to the bedroom.
The main choices of heated bedding are heated mattress pads or electric blankets. Mattress pads have the benefit of heating from underneath you, so warm the bed more efficiently.
However, electric blankets might suit some people better. They are a good choice if you don’t want wires beneath you, or find you get too hot when the heat is trapped between the bed and your body.
Personally, I use a heated blanket because my electricity bill is high enough these days without wasting even more on heat that just rises straight off the bed into the air!
7. Blow some warm air between the sheets
An effective alternative to heated bedding is a climate control system called the BedJet. My partner and I used one for several years, and were big fans.
It works by warming air over a ceramic stone in a separate unit and then blowing that warm air between your sheets and over your body.
It’s fast, effective, and has a wide range of temperature settings and features that allow you to warm your bed to the exact temperature you enjoy.
8. Wear warm pajamas and maybe socks too
Continuing with the theme of creating insulation for your body heat, try wearing some warm pajamas, perhaps from flannel if you like the feel of that. They also make getting out of bed in the night a slightly less shivery experience.
On extremely cold nights, I’ll wear socks in bed too as I’m very tall and there’s nothing worse at night than waking up with cold feet because they found their way out the end of the duvet.
9. Cuddle up to a hot water bottle
Another way to introduce an extra source of warmth is with a simple hot water bottle.
Fill it with hot water (not boiling though), and place it in your bed before you get in. You can then cuddle up to it, or use it to keep your feet warmer for the first half of the night.
If you’re tall like me, you might prefer a long hot water bottle rather than the standard shape. I didn’t even know they existed until my partner bought me one for Christmas. It’s great to have the whole length of my back warmed by it on the nights we sleep apart.
Remember not to combine a hot water bottle and heated bedding though. Also check the quality of the design and screw top before buying one to make sure you don’t have any leaks at night.
10. Snuggle up to your partner (or your dog)
Finally, one you probably already know if you sleep with a partner. Snuggling up together is a great way to insulate your combined body heat, ensuring you keep even more of it from escaping.
After considering some of the comments from readers below, the dog idea has finally made it onto the list. Speaking from experience, it’s amazing how much heat even relatively small dogs emit. They are furry hot water bottles with legs!
Just don’t expect them to keep you cool in the summer once they’ve gotten used to the luxury of sleeping in the human bed…
What’s the ideal bedroom temperature?
Experience has taught me that I personally prefer a slightly cooler bedroom temperature – as long as I don’t actually feel cold under the covers. But why is that?
A drop in air temperature at night is one of the key signals our internal body clock uses to know that it’s nearing bedtime. Overheating your bedroom could interfere with this natural process and potentially affect sleep quality.
It’s worth noting that everyone’s comfort level varies based on factors like age, health, and personal preference. However, if you’re uncertain about the ideal setting for your bedroom thermostat, the Cleveland Clinic suggests a bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 and 19.5 degrees Celsius) for adults.
While it’s tempting to keep your bed cozy and warm, especially when your home is blanketed in snow, excessive warmth might have the opposite effect on your sleep than intended.
That said, it’s equally important not to feel too cold, as it’s hard to sleep if you’re shivering in bed. Perhaps the principle of ‘everything in moderation’ applies to the bedroom temperature too.
As researchers in Japan wrote in 2012, it’s all about not sleeping in extreme temperatures, whether that’s too hot or too cold. As they put it:
The thermal environment is a key determinant of sleep because thermoregulation is strongly linked to the mechanism regulating sleep. Excessively high or low ambient temperature may affect sleep even in healthy humans without insomnia.Kazue Okamoto-Mizuno & Koh Mizuno
Using a power meter to work out the most cost-effective way to heat my bedroom
I don’t know how things are where you live, but here in the UK where I’m currently writing from, the cost of electricity is painful right now. We’re billed 45 pence per kilowatt hour during the daytime and 22 at night.
I recently moved house and decided to use a power meter to see which appliances were costing more, and also to test different settings on white goods like the washing machine.
I got quite into my testing, and calculated how much every single setting would cost me when used twice a week for a month. Unsurprisingly, not using the drying settings, and opting for shorter washes saves a fair bit of money over the month.
I also tested different heating methods for the bedroom at night to see which would be the most cost effective.
It turned out that it costs me around five pence to boil enough water in the kettle for a cup of bedtime tea and to half fill a hot water bottle along with cold water (I don’t want any scalding surprises!).
More importantly, I discovered it was cheaper to use a heated mattress pad all night rather than my gas central heating bedroom radiator or a small electric heater.
Just to clarify, I didn’t measure the central heating with the power meter. I had to base that on fresh meter readings entered into my energy supplier account to see what I had used at night.
It was good to have some facts that were specific to my home that I could work with, and reassuring to know that we were heating our bedroom at night in the most cost-effective way we could.
If you don’t have a power meter, it’s worth considering buying or borrowing one for a week to do some testing. You might be surprised by what you find.
Please note that I am not qualified to give financial advice based on power usage – I just wanted to share what I’ve personally found helpful.
Which techniques do you use to keep warm throughout those long winter nights? Let me know in the comments below!