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Does Cold Exposure Really Boost Sleep?

Does Cold Exposure Really Boost Sleep?

Cold therapy has recently gained notoriety as yet another trending hack in the health and wellness world, much like red light therapy. 

It’s even been touted as a quick fix for taking the body out of “fight or flight” by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. 

Cold exposure is thought to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is the longest cranial nerve in the body, for improved digestion, sleep, and mood. 

But what is cold therapy, actually? And how does it help with health maintenance and improvement, if at all?

What Is Cold Exposure Therapy?

Cold exposure therapy functions just as its name sounds. It includes any form of short exposure to cold temperatures, such as an ice bath, cold plunge, or cryotherapy treatment. 

While cold exposure therapy might encompass ending your shower with a blast of cold water for a few minutes, whole-body cryotherapy is a bit different. 

Cryotherapy includes exposing the skin to cold, dry air at ultra-low temperatures that you can’t easily obtain through regular cold water. 

While it sounds uncomfortable, the discomfort leads to huge benefits. When our bodies are exposed to cold temperatures, we experience a type of “good” stress called “eustress.”

Eustress helps you to better respond both physically and psychologically to bad stress in the future, like emotional distress or inadequate sleep. 

An illustration shows the difference between distress and eustress

The idea behind the mechanism of eustress as it relates to cold exposure is that a few minutes of discomfort helps to build mental and physical endurance. 

Over time, this endurance prepares us to positively respond to difficult situations in the future. 

When we expose ourselves to cold temperatures, our body temperature lowers. This is thought to promote better sleep and even improve brain function. 

Lowered Body Temperature Promotes Sleep

After spending a few minutes in a cold plunge, our body temperature drops. Once this happens, the body releases the sleep hormone melatonin. 

Frozen steel pool handlebars

Therefore, by decreasing our body temperature, we ramp up melatonin levels and can fall asleep more easily. 

Moreover, small studies suggest that cold exposure may help to alleviate depression and anxiety by causing a release of norepinephrine in the bloodstream. 

Norepinephrine is a hormone that helps improve focus, attention, and mood. Low levels of norepinephrine lead to a dip in mood and focus, while high levels help us to feel energetic, content, and on top of our game. 

While your mood may not feel elevated during a cold shower or cold plunge, an enhanced feeling of happiness may follow directly after the discomfort has ended. 

That’s not all – cold exposure may even help to speed up fat loss. 

Burn More Brown Fat

Did you know that feeling cold may help you burn more fat? A specific kind of fat, that is. 

Humans have several types of fat that serve different purposes. White fat, for example, stores extra energy within the body. 

Brown fat, however, helps us burn energy and maintain body temperature. 

A graphic illustrates the difference between white and brown fat cells

When we’re exposed to the cold, brown adipose tissue (BAT) is activated.

Since brown fat is specifically designed to help the body produce heat when we’re cold, activating BAT may help us burn more calories than usual. 

Therefore, cold exposure may help with weight loss, insulin sensitivity, and even certain metabolic syndromes. 

In fact, researchers put this to the test by exposing participants of a study to mildly cold temperatures for a month. 

After a month of cold exposure, participants experienced a 42 percent increase in brown fat volume followed by a 10 percent rise in fat metabolic activity. 

Therefore, research backs up the theory that an added benefit of regular cold exposure is better metabolic health. 

Along with enhanced brown fat activation, cold exposure is known to accelerate healing. 

Accelerated Healing

Cold exposure therapy has been praised as an effective treatment for accelerated healing, much like red light therapy.

Wim Hof, known as “The Iceman,” has developed a breathwork formula that he uses to maintain his composure while exposed to extremely cold temperatures. 

 

@somnifix Replying to @alexandersaparata Have you heard of #wimhoff or #wimhoffbreathing 😮‍💨🥶 #healthhack #didyouknow #learnontiktok ♬ RAVE - Dxrk ダーク

 

Hof demonstrated the effect of cold exposure on the body’s ability to heal by measuring its influence on the immune system. 

Findings revealed that when exposed to pathogens, using Hof’s method combined with cold exposure leads to a heightened immune response.

It’s no surprise, then, that cold exposure has been historically used as a treatment for reduced pain, post-exercise recovery, and even tissue repair. 

Whole-body cryotherapy, ice baths, ice packs, and more help to reduce inflammation and swelling while aiding in pain relief, accelerating the healing process. 

The Breg Polar Care Cube helps to apply cold therapy at specific places on the body to restrict blood vessels and enhance healing. 

This device is considered to be revolutionary in the world of cold exposure therapy, as it provides consistently cold temperatures to the joints by circulating cold water. 

The Breg Polar Care Cube even comes with pads in several sizes to target certain areas of the body, like the shoulders or the knee. 

Breg Polar Care Cube

This technology eases pain longer than any typical cold pack and is compact in size, making it viable for use in a clinic, hospital, or even at home. 

A prescription is required to purchase the Breg Polar Care Cube, but the motorized cold treatment it offers lasts for six to eight hours. 

However, you don’t need a Breg Polar Care Cube, cryotherapy chamber, or at-home cold plunge tank to take advantage of all of the benefits that cold exposure offers for sleep, metabolic health, and healing. 

How to Practice Cold Exposure at Home

Cold exposure doesn’t have to be fancy or unattainable. In fact, you can easily incorporate a cold exposure routine into your day by trying cold water therapy at home. 

Grab a large bowl, fill it partially with water, and freeze it overnight. The next day, pour water over the ice and stick your face in the water for several seconds. 

Take your face out of the water and repeat the process up to three times, working your way up in duration each day.

If you don’t want to fill up a bowl, simply add cold water therapy to your daily bath or shower routine. 

Fill up your bathtub with cold water and add ice until the temperature reaches somewhere between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit for an at-home ice bath. Get in the water, staying immersed for three to five minutes. 

Once you’ve mastered that duration, work your way up to ten minutes each time. 

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of filling up your bathtub, try a cold shower. 

Black shower head switched on

To start, shower with warm water as you normally would. At the end of your shower, gradually lower the temperature to a cold setting you can handle. Stay in the water for 30 seconds. 

Shift it back to warm for a few minutes, then back to cold for another 30 seconds. Repeat this transition around three times at the end of your shower and you’ll feel renewed! 

Once you’ve hopped out of a cold bath or shower, you’ll want to feel warm. However, resist the urge to crank up the thermostat. 

One of the best promoters of quality sleep is a room temperature between 60 to 66 degrees. 

This will prevent your body temperature from rising back up too high, disrupting melatonin production and interrupting your sleep quality. 

As you climb into bed in a chilled room, pop some mouth tape on to ensure that you stay in a relaxed, parasympathetic state. 

Expose Yourself to Better Overnight Breathing With SomniFix 

Mouth tape is an easy sleep hack that prevents snoring, enhances sleep, and puts an end to dysfunctional overnight breathing. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Taping the lips prevents open-mouth breathing, which is known to cause snoring. 

As we mouth breathe overnight, airway tissues fall backward, causing tissues to vibrate together and fragment our sleep. 

Mouth taping prevents mouth breathing, encouraging nasal breathing (the optimal breathing method). 

Man wears mouth tape to prevent snoring and promote nasal breathing overnight

Nasal breathing leads to optimal oxygenation, better sleep, and even improved health. 

But we aren’t telling you to duct tape your mouth before bed, hostage style. 

SomniFix was designed exclusively for mouth taping. Our gentle, gel-like adhesive is free from harmful chemicals and irritants, including latex and gluten. 

Our strips also offer a patented breathing vent to help you get used to the sensation of mouth taping overnight. 

While you add cold exposure to your routine for improved sleep, tape your way to optimal airway health with SomniFix.

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