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Temperature Variations During your Day Can Make You Healthier

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By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Temperature variations for optimal healthModern technology has succeeded in providing us with the most comfortable living environments possible. When we are cold, we put on the heat, when we are hot we turn up the air conditioner. Have all these luxuries spoiled us? Research has proven, this just might be the case. Previously, it was assumed that stable, comfortable fixed temperatures would create a well being in most people. However, new research has indicated quite the opposite. It has been found that temperature variations may indeed have a more positive effect on our health. It might even create pleasure and happiness.

How Temperature Variations Affect Your Health

Studies are showing a correlation between temperature variations and preventable metabolic syndromes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and adrenal fatigue. The latest research has indicated that a person’s exposure to mildly cold or warmer environments that are outside their regular comfort zones can increase metabolism and energy usage, which in turn can tackle obesity. One study found exposure to mild cold temperatures over a 10 day period changed glucose metabolism and increased insulin sensitivity by more than 40%, aiding type 2 diabetes.

Body temperature variations affect certain chemicals in the brainstem, which in turn increase sensitivity to GABA and adenosine. GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Low levels of GABA may be linked to anxiety or mood disorders. Adenosine is a neuromodulator, believed to play a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal. Adenosine also plays a role in the regulation of blood flow to various organs, a very important bodily function.

Temperature Variations Even Affect Sleep

Is there an optimal sleeping temperature? Science says, yes. Research has been conclusive that body temperature variations most definitely affect sleep. They cause certain chemicals to be released in the brain that induce a sleepy and relaxed state. People who have a greater sensitivity to the fluctuation are heavy sleepers, while those who have less of a temperature variation reaction are lighter sleepers. The other known cause of increased body fluctuations other than temperature is exercise.

For optimal sleep, the bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. It has been noted at temperatures above 75 and below 54 are disruptive to most people's sleep. Your body naturally peaks and declines in temperature on its own. The highest levels are early in the afternoon, and the lowest are around 5 a.m. When your body starts to lose heat from its core, you experience feelings of tiredness. Colder temperatures help get the body to that lower temperature faster, thus enabling a deeper sleep.

There are many benefits of sleeping in cold temperatures that can enhance your health:

  • A lower temperature can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. If your environment is too hot or too cold, your body will waste a lot of energy trying to regulate itself, resulting in tossing and turning, or even insomnia. The cold will bring you into a deep, restful, and restorative sleep.
  • Sleeping in the cold leads to a more youthful appearance. It has actually been proven that sleeping in lower temperatures allows your body to release additional melatonin, the best anti-aging hormone your body has to offer.
  • Cold variations can decrease your risk for certain metabolic diseases. Sleeping in a 66-degree temperature was shown to burn more calories during awake time, and increase the amount of brown fat in the body. Brown fat aids in burning calories, it does not store them. The combination of the two together lowers the risk of many metabolic diseases that are weight based, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Cheap Ways to Stay Cool While You Sleep

If you’ve decided to use cold temperature variations to improve your health while you sleep, you may also have noticed that it can be expensive to keep your AC running every night at those low levels.

However, there are other options to lowering your body to its optimal sleep temperature that do not require breaking the bank. These are some of the best ways to keep your body cool:

  • Freeze a sheet or blanket and put it over you right before you go to sleep. Or you may want to freeze a small pillow or stuffed animal and tuck it between your knees. For longer duration, you can purchase a cooling pillow.
  • Soak the top sheet in cold water, wring it out well, and let it dry on you as you sleep.
  • Sleep naked. The fewer clothes you are wearing, the less insulation you will have.
  • Use a fan to circulate the air.
  • Leave one or both feet out from under the covers.

Temperature variations provided by air conditionerssuRelying too much on air conditioner can cause other problems as well. Running your air conditioning at too low of temperatures day and night has been noted by many doctors to be related to health ailments such as asthma attacks, runny noses, muscular pain, flu, pharyngitis, sinusitis, cold, sore throat, and muscular aches pains. So try to stay cool in other ways.

Beware of Extreme Temperature Variations

It is vitally important that you know that extreme temperature variations could be dangerous, even deadly. On average the human body’s temperature rests at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius, but normal can range between 97 degrees and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. With or without the help of warming or cooling equipment and devices, the environment needs to be comfortably at about 82 degrees. There is a reason why we wear clothes; they are not only for good looks! They are indeed necessary to help keep our body regulated according to our environment.

However, if you do find yourself in a setting with extreme temperatures, it is important to take precautionary measures as there are several health concerns to be aware of that could be critical to your survival.

Extreme heat:

  • High temperatures in the range of 90 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to heat cramps. Common symptoms include heavy sweating, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or lightheadedness, blacking out, or a weak but racing pulse.
  • Between 105 degrees and 130 degrees, heat exhaustion is likely to set in.
  • External temperatures over 130 are conducive to heat stroke. Symptoms include hot, red skin; a strong, fast pulse; losing consciousness; and an internal body temperature of over 103 degrees.

Extreme cold:

Just as the extreme heat is dangerous, so is the extreme cold. And it's not only the temperature that you need to be aware of. A high wind chill factor and cold water can set you into a bout of hypothermia that is life-threatening. Even external body moisture can cause a dangerous chill as it can alter your body’s rate of cooling. Severe cold can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, chilblains, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and cold-induced hives.

When your body drops a few points below its average temperature, it can experience many symptoms such as shivering, an increased heart rate, a decrease in coordination, and frequent urination.

If it drops even lower into the mid 80’s to low 90’s, the body starts to shut down. At this stage:

  • shivering will decrease in strength or stop in entirety.
  • shallow breathing and a rapid heart rate as the body attempts to regulate, but is failing.
  • an inability to walk, accompanied with drowsiness and stupor.

If the body temperature reaches below 71.6 degrees, the body goes into shock. Muscles go rigid, reflexes are poor reflexes, and there is an inability to move or respond. There is minimal breathing, low or no blood pressure, and heart rate and breathing decrease leading to possible coma or death.

Major Temperature Fluctuations

Major temperature variations and it's health effectsSudden changes in temperature from extreme hot to cold, or vice versa can have serious effects on health. Doctors have confirmed that locations such as malls, business offices, public establishments, religious centers, and even hospitals have a responsibility to maintain safe temperatures that are not unhealthy.

Going from a boiling hot environment to a freezing air-conditioned one has adverse effects on the body. The body undergoes stress as it attempts to regulate.It dries out the skin, the mucous membranes, and the eyes resulting in eye infections, respiratory infections, and muscular spasms. There have even been causes of facial paralysis.

A healthy temperature is recommended between 73 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent illnesses and ensure a more healthy, stable environment.

Extreme temperature variations have also been cited to exacerbate diseases related to the heart, vascular system, brain, peripheral artery, and veins.

What Do Temperature Variations, Metabolic Syndrome and Adrenal Fatigue Have In Common?

Temperature variations have a huge impact on many of the body’s systems. At a regulated and safe level, temperatures can have positive effects on our health. Yet extreme fluctuations can cost us our lives. The metabolic system is one of the body’s operating systems that is highly influenced by temperature variations in a positive way, and this is great news for those who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) as it is a way to manage their symptoms and illness using a more natural approach.

Metabolic syndrome and AFS both occur when major organs become exhausted by the amount of stress they experience. Periods of prolonged stress are very damaging to the body, with an enormous burden being placed on the adrenal glands in particular as they are responsible for the stress response system, producing enough adrenaline for the body to deal with the perceived threat, and then pumping out cortisol after the threat has passed to bring the body back into a balanced state.

People who suffer from metabolic syndrome and adrenal fatigue are constantly in a state of bouncing in between “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. This causes a tremendous amount of pressure on the organs, and they, in turn, begin to suffer and show symptoms of distress. The pattern of spikes and crashes has been known to cause major organs to function at sub-par levels, leading to symptoms such as lethargy, sugar cravings, and insomnia.

Unresolved imbalances can lead to adrenal exhaustion and frequent adrenal crashes. It should come as no surprise that many in adrenal exhaustion complain of temperature variability intolerance. Many find themselves unable to take a hot shower or bath, intolerant of saunas, and sick after exposure to sunlight for as little as a few minutes. While these may seem strange to the normal person, those with advanced AFS can attest these are real challenges.

Temperature variations that are idealFrequent hydration and avoidance of heat often provides relief. It is as if the body has lost its ability to fine-tune its own internal temperature regulatory mechanism. The internal thermostat feels broken. In general, those with AFS, especially in advanced stages, should maintain an environment with a consistent indoor temperature that is comfortable, avoiding excessive exposure to heat or temperature variance.

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

The latest research has indicated that person who was exposure to mildly cold temperature variations that are outside their regular comfort zones for a 10 day period experienced improved glucose metabolism and increased insulin sensitivity by more than 40%.

Temperature variations

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