True North Blog

How to Sleep More Warmly at Night

With cold weather overnights having just arrived this week, and Winter just around the corner, I wanted to offer some often overlooked tips to help you sleep more warmly at night … Even if you use a winter-rated bag.

They will not only help you to feel more rested in the morning, but help reduce the chances of a cold-related medical emergency.

  • Put on a Hat:  While my grandmother exaggerated a bit when she told me that we lose “80%” of our body heat through our heads, research has indeed shown that we still tend to lose a lot of heat there through radiation due to blood flow.  So simply wearing a hat when we are cold will generally make us feel warmer, whether or not we are already wearing a warm coat.
  • Wear Wool:  When it comes to clothing, wool is regularly disregarded in favor of cotton.  After all, cotton feels soft and cozy, right?  But there is reason why search-and-rescue crews refer to cotton as “death fabric” … It loses 100% of its insulating ability when wet; doesn’t dry easily; and doesn’t wick.  By comparison, wool maintains 80% of its insulating ability even when wet; dries easily; and naturally wicks.  If you are concerned about the itch, buy some Merino wool.
  • Eat a High-Fat Snack or Meal before Bedtime:  Your body is effectively a furnace that generates heat through the interaction of oxygen and chemicals coming from the macronutrients that we eat (carbohydrate, protein, and fat).  Fat, then, is like a log that you throw on a fire, that burns slowly, but gives off sustained heat.  By comparison, simple carbohydrates are like kindling on a fire, that burn quickly, but die out just as fast.
  • Invest in a Good Sleeping Pad:  While I admit that a sleeping pad offers much appreciated comfort, its real value comes from the insulation that it provides between your body and the ground.  Without one, then, even sleeping in a bag on the floor of your tent in the Summer will cause you to lose much core body heat through conduction.  A fews ago, I grimaced painfully when I paid roughly $200 for a NeoAir mattress from Therm-A-Rest, but it has more than paid for itself in so many ways.

Keep in mind that these tips are not just applicable to camping, but a survival situation or where you need to care for someone until helps arrives.

To learn more, consider taking a Basic Wilderness Survival or Wilderness First Aid course.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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