With winter upon us, there’s nothing nicer than wearing cosy clothes, eating hearty food and relaxing at home while the weather rages outside. While you might have to forgo the beach in the colder months, New Zealand has some fantastic facilities for winter sports, and if you’re not the sporting type there’s nothing like watching a film or reading a good book at home.
Unfortunately, winter is also the time when you find yourself going to bed cosy and content and waking up freezing, having to convince yourself to throw off the covers and dash to the warm shower. So, if we’re warm when we go to sleep, why do we wake up so cold during winter? And, are there any ways we can increase our comfort on those chilly winter mornings? Read on to find out our top tips to prevent waking up freezing.
What Happens to Our Body Temperatures When we Sleep?
Our need for sleep is partially thanks to our circadian rhythms, which — amongst other things — cause us to be tired at night and wake up in the morning without an alarm. Though our circadian rhythms continue without them, they are influenced by external environmental cues, such as temperature and light. As we switch off for the night and fall asleep, our body goes through interesting stages of sleep, which we cycle through many times during a single night.
Firstly we drift from awake to asleep, our body and brain waves slow and our muscles relax. In the second stage of sleep — the stage before we enter deep sleep — our body slows and our muscles relax even further. It’s during this stage of sleep that our body temperature drops.
As we enter the third stage we fall into deep sleep, our heartbeat and breathing drops to their lowest levels, our muscles are at their most relaxed and our brain waves slow further. This is the stage of sleep that we need to feel refreshed in the morning. Finally we enter REM sleep where our eyes move behind closed eyelids and our brain wave activity sharply increases, as does our heart rate and blood pressure. This is the stage in which we do most of our dreaming, though as we get older we spend less of our sleeping time in REM sleep.
What Temperature Should the Room be at Night?
Sometimes it can be hard to know what the ideal room temperature actually is — particularly if you’ve grown up layering on clothes rather than using heating systems. Thankfully, these days we’ve moved on from that school of thought and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum indoor room temperature of 18°C. This temperature should keep you comfortable and is within the range of the best temperature for sleeping, which is different for everyone but generally sits between 15-20°C. If you share a home with elderly people, those who are sick or disabled, or a baby, the WHO recommends the temperature increases to 20°C.
Easy Ways to Keep Warm During the Night
If you’re sick of feeling cold throughout the night, there are some easy and quick changes you can make that can make a difference to your comfort during winter.
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure your bed is as cosy as possible. Pack away the thinner cotton sheets and make sure you have a winter flannelette set to keep you extra warm. If you have a winter weight duvet be sure to switch to that, or if not layer a blanket between your top sheet and your duvet. With your bed now transformed into a cosy nest, you’ll also want to make sure you have a warm set of pajamas. Be sure to get a pair that has long sleeves and legs so that as much of your body is covered as possible.
Investing in an electric blanket is also a good idea and will mean your bed is cosy when you first get in, so you don’t waste time and energy waiting for it to warm up with your body heat. An electric blanket can be a fantastic winter companion, though they should always be used safely. Don’t sleep with an electric blanket switched on, even on the lowest setting. And, if you stored your blanket over the summer months, check that it’s still in good condition. You can do this by laying the blanket flat, switching it on high for 15 minutes and then turning it off. While the blanket is still warm, run your hand over it to see if there are any hot spots, which can indicate the heating coil has been damaged. Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommend that if your electric blanket is older than five years, you should replace it with a newer and safer heat-protected model.
If you don’t have an electric blanket you can also use a hot water bottle to warm up your bed before you get in. A hottie is a New Zealand classic and they still work just as good now as they did when you were a kid. But, like anything hot, you still need to take precautions when using them. Always make sure the hot water bottle is in good condition before you use it, taking care to check that the rubber hasn’t split or thinned. Don’t fill your hottie with boiling water — warm will do just fine — and use a cover (or wrap it in a towel) to minimise the chances of burning yourself. Wheat packs are also good options, which can be heated by just popping them in the microwave for a few minutes.
Moving away from the bed area, you can also keep your bedroom warmer by having thick curtains over your windows. Having a good set of curtains has multiple benefits, from creating a dark environment for optimal sleeping conditions to forming a seal around your windows in order to prevent heat loss. To be effective, your curtains should be floor length (to prevent cold air falling out the bottom), fit tightly against the window frame, be wider than the window frame and be double layered with a thick lining.
Invest in a Heat Pump
An efficient and easy way to heat your entire home before you go to bed is to invest in a heat pump solution for your home. Unlike other heating methods, heat pumps don’t require any fuel to continue warming your home like gas heaters or wood burners.
Heat pumps come in different shapes and sizes to fit your family’s particular needs and can be installed in bedrooms and main living areas. For homes with heat pumps in bedrooms, you can simply switch the heat pump on before you go to bed and close the door to warm the space faster. Or, if you have a unit in your living room, warm the common areas and then open the doors to the bedrooms to allow the heat to travel and warm them up before bedtime.
What makes installing a heat pump NZ-wide a truly great idea is the ability to program your unit to switch on and start heating at a time of your choosing. This means that you can have the heat pump turn on while you sleep so that you wake up to a deliciously warm bedroom and house. Heat pumps like the Panasonic range sold by HRV work quietly, so your sleep won’t be disturbed when the unit turns on. However, you can also make use of your heat pump’s quiet mode if you want to be extra sure of a quiet room.
While a heat pump is primarily used during winter in New Zealand homes, it’s actually an appliance that can be used year-round. Forget about sweltering during the summer months, instead use your heat pump as an air conditioner to achieve maximum comfort. By switching your heat pump into reverse mode your home will stay fresh and cool and so will all of those who live there. You can also adjust your heat pump for the more mild seasons, taking the edge off on cooler autumn or spring days.
HRV is committed to making sure every New Zealander is prepared for winter. If you’re interested in learning more about heating your home with heat pumps, our knowledgeable team would love to chat. Book a free home assessment with HRV today!