Snooze University
Tools

Can Lack of Sleep Make You Feel Cold?

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Jan 25, 2022

If you’re having sleep trouble lately and you feel colder than usual, it’s probably not just in your head.

There is research that shows that sleep deprivation can reduce your tolerance to both hot and cold temperatures, although the exact mechanism isn’t clear.

This short post summarizes the research available on this topic and looks at how big this effect actually is.

Sleep Deprivation Can Reduce Your Cold Pain Threshold

How much sleep deprivation is needed to reduce temperature sensitivity?

Even just a day seems to be enough.

One study had 14 healthy subjects go through a night of sleep deprivation in a cross-over design in order to study the effects on pain sensitivity (1).

They found that subjects had:

  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Increased sensitivity to blunt pressure and mechanical pain (e.g. pin prick)
  • Increased sensitivity to cold

The first graph in the image below shows just how big of an effect size there was on the change in cold sensitivity:

Essentially, subjects who were sleep deprived felt that about 21 degrees Celsius was very cold, compared to about 15 degrees when not sleep deprived.

So if you’re normally comfortable in your home at 18 degrees, you might find that very cold if you are sleep deprived over a period of time.

SummaryThis study shows that a single night of sleep deprivation makes people much less comfortable with cold (or hot) temperatures, or with discomfort in general.

Primary Insomnia Affects Temperature Perception

The study above was short-term and had a small sample size, so let’s look at some other research to see if the findings are repeatable.

Another study had 17 patients with primary insomnia (i.e. constantly sleep deprived) and studied their heat threshold and pressure pain threshold (2).

They found that people with insomnia had significantly lower tolerance of heat and pain.

This is the same finding from the earlier study, but unfortunately they did not test cold sensitivity as well, although it likely would have been the same.

Another research team used data from a large population-based study with over 10,000 participants (3).

They found:

We found that all sleep parameters, except sleep duration, were significantly associated with reduced pain tolerance.

Another interesting note from that paper is that the frequency and severity of insomnia were tied to the effect size. In other words, people who are more sleep deprived have a greater decrease in pain tolerance.

SummaryA few research papers on people with insomnia and sleep deprivation have also found that a lack of sleep leads to a reduction in pain tolerance, which we can reasonably extend to expect that cold tolerance would be reduced as well.

Other Ways Insomnia May Make Someone Feel Cold

One other important thing to note is that a chronic lack of sleep (in the form of insomnia) is often caused by other health conditions.

Two conditions in particular that are known for making people feel cold, are also relatively common causes of insomnia:

That’s why it’s important to see a doctor if someone starts to develop insomnia. The cause can be another serious health issue that needs to be diagnosed and treated.

References

  1. One night of total sleep deprivation promotes a state of generalized hyperalgesia
  2. Pain sensitivity and modulation in primary insomnia
  3. Sleep and pain sensitivity in adults

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.