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. 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 your own body heat, you can keep your bed warm enough to sleep just by being there.
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 extras 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 comforter or duvet filling
If you don’t mind using animal products, the warmest filling for comforters and duvets is down and/or feathers.
Another effective filler is wool, which traps air very effectively, while still being more breathable than synthetic fillings. If you’d prefer to avoid animal-based fillings, hollow fiber is a good choice of warm material.
What are tog values?
In some countries, duvets come with a tog value. A tog is a measure of thermal insulation, giving you an idea of how warm you can expect it to be.
As a rule of thumb, aim for these values according to the season:
- Summer: 3.5 – 7.5
- Spring and autumn: 7.5-10.5
- Cold winters: 13.5 – 15
5. Choose warmer blanket materials
If you use a blanket, the warmest materials are wool and cotton fleece. The fibers of these materials are curlier, which creates air pockets that trap your body heat better than flat synthetic fibers.
There are many choices of wool, with sheep and lamb wool being the most common. And if you want the very warmest possible, try a blanket made from Merino, Cashmere, Alpaca, Yak, or Qiviut.
6. Use heated bedding
Although it’s possible to warm your bed using just your body and bedding, for some people it still might not be enough. And if you deplore getting into a cold bed, perhaps it’s time to warm it up before you settle down for the night.
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.
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 have used one for a couple of years, and are big fans (pun intended!)
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
Continuing with the theme of creating insulation for your body heat, try wearing some warm flannel pajamas. They also make getting out of bed in the night a slightly less shivery experience.
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.
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.
And following a couple of comments from readers, 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?
A falling temperature signals to your body clock that it’s night, and therefore time for sleep. So heating your bedroom too much can have a negative effect on your sleep quality.
Sleep experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend a bedroom temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 and 19.5 degrees Celsius) for adults. Some people will prefer warmer or cooler temperatures to sleep in, but it’s a useful rule of thumb.
So although it’s nice to warm your bed, if it makes you overheat and sweat, try experimenting with cooler temperatures.
It might sound counterintuitive if your house is literally under a foot of snow. But going overboard in combatting the cold at night might not have the effect you were hoping for.
Having said that, it’s important not to feel too cold in bed either; it’s hard to sleep if you’re shivering in bed! So perhaps the old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ applies to the ideal temperature for sleep too.
Or 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
Which techniques do you use to keep warm throughout those long winter nights? Let me know in the comments below!