Does cooling your bedroom improve your metabolism?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

At one family event in the throes of my dieting obsession in high-school, an aunt told me that her strategy had been to wear sleeveless shirts in the wintertime.  "That way, I could eat whatever I wanted, but I figured I would burn it all off by shivering."  I was not particularly impressed with her strategy.  (Her point actually wasn't to be impressive, but to point out how my efforts were unimpressive and unsustainable as well.)

Oddly, though, this article in the New York Times today gives some credence to her tendencies.  A National Institutes of Health study suggests that cooling the temperature in your bedroom can increase your metabolism by increasing your brown (metabolically active) fat and increasing your sensitivity to insulin.  (Take note all you diabetics out there struggling with nighttime bloodsugars...)  In the study, 75 degrees was a neutral bedroom temperature and 66 degrees was the chilled temperature necessary for metabolic shifts.

The shifts were not substantial enough for any participant to lose weight during the 4 weeks they slept in the 66-degree room although their measures of brown fat and bloodsugars improved.  The study described the changes as "slight, but meaningful."

A and I sleep with our thermostat set to 72 degrees.  For him, this is the perfect temperature to sleep with a light sheet.  For me, it's cold enough that I often bundle up in the comforter for portions of the night and then change things up (which makes sense given the way your body temperature changes while you're sleeping--for more on that, see my post and the linked resource here).  It seemed to me that to reap any benefits (take a look at the article/study and see what you think) I would need to turn the thermostat down even more and ditch the comforter.  This sounds kind of miserable (and expensive) for "slight, but meaningful" changes.

At the same time, what the heck, maybe I'll try to ditch the comforter tonight and just go for the sheet without moving the thermostat.

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