Thermoregulation & Sleeping Problems: Understanding the Connection

Posted by Mark Aramli on


Medically Related Thermoregulation & Sleep ProblemsEveryone loves a good, uninterrupted night of sleep.
However, it’s hard to sleep well if you suffer from a medical condition that interferes with your ability to correctly regulate body temperature or temperature sensation.  

A healthy internal body temperature falls somewhere between 98°F (37°C) and 100°F (37.8°C). When your body temperature creeps beyond those ranges, it can impair your body’s ability to function properly, thus disrupting your ability to sleep. If you tend to feel unusually cold or warm in otherwise “normal” room temperatures, it can have a debilitating impact on your quality of sleep.  Below we highlight a few common medical conditions that are associated with temperature sensitivity and sleep quality.


MS Sleep Problems

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients commonly experience temperature related challenges. Many MS patients experience temperature sensitivity as well as an inability to regulate their core body temperature.  

Exposure to extreme temperatures may cause MS symptoms to flare up and temporarily worsen. As a result, MS patients tend to be intolerant to heat and high humidity. Sudden temperature fluctuations, as well as extreme cold exposure, may also exacerbate MS symptoms and trigger a flare-up. MS sufferers may experience bedtime disruptions like:

  • Heat sensitivity or cold sensitivity ( ie, feeling too hot/cold even in a normal temperature bedroom)
  • Burning sensation in the feet
  • Nocturnal leg spasms (night leg cramps)
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disordered breathing

Since healthy thermoregulation in MS patients is impaired, a good night of rest can often seem just out of reach. For those who suffer from MS, finding ways to enhance sleep and reduce fatigue through better temperature control is important to improving quality of life.

Raynaud’s Disease and Sleep

Raynaud’s disease affects the way the blood vessels in the skin regulate body temperature. When you are cold, your brain sends messages to thermoregulatory blood vessels in your body to redirect your blood flow to vital organs in order to keep you warm. This pulls blood away from your extremities, like your hands and feet. Individuals who suffer from Raynaud’s disease can experience this reaction even with very slight changes in temperature.  

As a result, when people who suffer from Raynaud’s disease try to sleep, they often experience chronically cold hands or feet in a bed that never seems to warm up, regardless of how many blankets they use. Therefore, many doctors recommend using external warming or temperature control products in bed to help alleviate the discomfort caused by Raynaud’s disease.   

Chemotherapy & Cancer Sleep Problems

Healthy sleep patterns are important for everyone, especially patients fighting cancer. When we sleep, our body releases stress and directs healing energy where we need it most. Poor sleep can stifle your body’s immune system and interfere with your body’s ability to heal itself.  Cancer patients often suffer from a variety of sleep problems, including:

  • Chemotherapy induced hot flashes and night sweats
  • Cold sensitivity, feeling cold and shivering in bed    
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleeplessness and insomnia

Proper sleep is conducive to proper body temperature regulation. Therefore, when there is a disturbance in thermoregulation, many people experience poor sleep quality, which in turn hinders your body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities. Finding ways to be more comfortable in bed when suffering from hot flashes, night sweats, or cold sensitivity can improve your sleep, which consequentially, will positively impact your overall health.

Hypothyroidism Sleep Problems

Often referred to as the “body’s thermostat”, your thyroid gland helps your body regulate heat. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid is underactive and can’t produce enough hormones. Individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism often find that they are cold in bed, causing them to have trouble sleeping. As a result, the body tends to overcompensate, further taxing the thyroid, leading to fatigue and other barriers to good health.

Plenty of rest is key to giving your underactive thyroid a break. Avoid extremely cold temperatures when possible and utilize external heat measures when needed to stay warm.

Sometimes hypothyroid sufferers swing the other way and lose sleep from overheating and night sweats. Utilizing temperature control products to help bring down your body temperature may be helpful so that you can obtain the rest your body needs.

Circulatory Problems and Sleep

If you’ve ever woken up to cold and tingling hands or feet, you understand how circulation problems can disrupt and contribute to a poor night’s sleep. Blood flow and thermoregulation go hand-in-hand.

Poor circulation contributes to a lower body temperature, causing individuals to feel cold, especially in their extremities. On the other hand, stimulating blood flow and proper circulation helps your body stay warm. Many people who suffer from circulatory problems report numbness in hands while sleeping as a result of poor circulation.

Body temperature regulation is not only important to your health, but it also contributes to restful and healing sleep. If there is a kink in your body’s thermoregulation, quality of sleep suffers, and as a result, your health does too.

Learn how to regulate your core body temperature throughout the sleep cycle.