The Science Behind Sticking One Foot Out From Under The Sheets

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I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Maybe you’ve even done it to your kids.

What’s the deal with pulling out one foot from under the covers? How can one foot, only a few inches of bare skin, cool off your body rapidly and efficiently?

This morning I woke up sweaty in the wee hours before the sun began to rise. I had the urge to swiftly flip off the covers but knew that I would get too cold and wake up again to curl back under them. I did the common trick: I stuck one foot out from under my sheets.

Although I was tired and wanted to fall back asleep, I made a mental note: “That would be a fascinating article: The Science Behind Sticking One Foot Out From Under The Sheets. I’ll work on that tomorrow.” And I promptly dozed back into dreamland.

The Basics of Sleep

Obviously sleep is important.  Every human body needs sleep to rest and recover. Depending on your age, research recommends anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per night.

It’s best to sleep in a room with a temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The National Sleep Foundation. If you’re too warm or too cold, you’ll disturb your quality sleep time in order to regulate your core temperature.

Quality sleep, or a significant lack of sleep, can impact your appearance, academic performance, mood, levels of concentration, decision making, and social interactions. Interestingly, older adults are better at adapting to sleep loss than younger people. I suppose that’s not too surprising when you consider surviving college, early work years, raising children, and undergoing the aging process later in life (aka menopause). 

Mama, I have a feeling you personally comprehend the impacts of minimal sleep. Think back to the days of having a newborn (or a newborn among other children). Recall times when your kids went to bed late and woke up early. You know the detriment of shortened sleep!

Don’t let an overheated body be the reason you or your child don’t accrue enough quality time in bed. Try the trick and stick out one foot.

What’s The Deal With Only One Foot?

Feet are more instrumental in lowering your core temperature than any other body part. Why?

  • Because they contain a link between arteries and veins that expands when your feet are warm. This means that your feet can cool off more quickly.
  • There is no hair on the bottom of your feet, although the tops may be a bit hairy. Hair traps heat, so a lack of hair evaporates heat faster.
  • When your foot cools off, it assists your entire body to lower its temperature. And a cooler body equals better sleep. Even a simple one or two degrees can do the trick.

The beauty of this trick is that it only takes one foot to cool off. Don’t throw off every cover or you’ll become chilly again. Simply slip one foot out, perhaps two if you’re having hot flashes, and be amazed at how easy it is to drift off into your dreams again.

How To Take Full Advantage Of The One-Foot Trick

  1. First, be sure that your environment is the proper temperature. 60-67 degrees is ideal.
  2. Next, put appropriate sheets and blankets on your bed. Flannel sheets in the summer aren’t ideal, and neither is a sheer blanket during cold weather. It’s helpful to not tuck in your sheets on the side of the bed. See step 5 below for more details.
  3. Attempt to regulate your body temperature before you go to bed. You’ll naturally notice your body cooling off as the evening draws to a close. Being cool signifies to your body that bedtime is approaching. Wrap up in a blanket, slip on slippers, or put on a robe.
  4. Help your body fall asleep by switching off your mind, reducing electronics, and finishing all tasks early in the evening. This helps your body relax and transition to turning off your mind.
  5. If (when) your body becomes warm during the night, stick out one foot. Because your sheets are already untucked on the sides (see step 2), it takes little effort to do this. Which means you can quickly fall back asleep as your body cools off!

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