You can’t sleep. You tried everything from warm glasses of milk, counting sheep, laying off the late-night binge-watching. All the usual tips, but have you tried sticking one of your feet outside your blankets? It’s the weirdest life hack, but it can legitimately help you fall asleep.
Forget counting sheep. The answer to your sleepless nights isn’t at the tip of your fingertips; it’s at the tip of your toes. Sometimes when it’s hot, we stick our leg out from under the covers, and it’s like an instant cooling effect. But when it’s cold, we want socks to keep our feet warm. Why do the feet have so much thermal power?
Warm-blooded creatures have thermoregulation – we’re always burning energy to keep our internal organs to optimal body temperature. Temperature is maintained by the burning of energy, but also sweating, shivering, and overall skin blood flow and our feet and hands are major weapons in the maintenance of body temperature. Typically, blood runs from the heart, through arteries, vessels, capillaries, to cells and then back through veins to the heart. When it’s hot, things open up, and blood flows more freely; and the opposite happens when it’s cold.
It’s all about body temperature. Researchers have found a link between high body temperature and alertness, including improved memory, attention, and reaction times. But the opposite is also true. Your body naturally gets colder right before your usual bedtime, and that drop in temperature seems to make people sleepy. What this means is anything you can do before bed to help that cooling process along will likely signal to the brain and body that it’s time for bed.
This is where your feet come in. They are ideal tools for cooling down. The bottoms of our feet are unusual parts of our body in two crucial ways. For one thing, they are hairless, but even more importantly they contain specialized vascular structures that help regulate heat loss. Specifically, the hands and feet contain blood vessels called the “Arterial Venous Anastomosis,” which are pretty much perfectly designed to help dissipate body heat. These blood vessels supply blood to the veins located just below the skin surface, and if the skin of your feet is exposed to the cool night air, the blood there cools down. When that chilled blood recirculates through your body, your core temperature gets cooler, and you drift closer to Dreamland.
It helps lower your internal body temperature, signals to your body it’s time to snooze and works like magic. So if you are an insomniac, stick your foot out tonight. Try it — and sweet, sweet slumber could soon be yours.
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