During those freezing cold winter nights, you’ve probably bundled up in bed with a blanket or two in a bid to keep toasty. And on those evenings when Jack Frost is doing his worst, you may have even fallen asleep with your socks on – despite the fact that it’s often discouraged if you want to get some proper rest.
After all, at some point, you could wake up with sweaty feet – not a pleasant sensation at the best of times. And as it turns out, there apparently are ways in which wearing socks to bed does indeed affect our sleep – although those side effects probably aren’t quite what you’d expect.
Yes, research suggests that keeping socks on – either deliberately or inadvertently – as we doze can make a substantial difference to the quality of our rest. And parents the world over are probably glad to hear this after having told their youngsters – maybe on numerous occasions – to remove their footwear at bedtime.
Of course, moms and dads know how important a good night’s sleep is. And as we grow older and some of us become parents ourselves, we too often confer the same advice. If you fail to get in enough Zs, you see, even the smallest of everyday tasks can become overly difficult.
In fact, bad sleep can actually have alarming repercussions in many aspects of our lives. According to a 2018 piece written by family nurse practitioner Kathleen Davis for Medical News Today, an insufficient amount of rest “can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity and a lowered perception of quality of life.”
And while many of us thankfully have fairly good sleep patterns, that doesn’t mean we’re entirely off the hook. “There is no questioning the importance of restorative sleep, and a certain amount of attention is necessary to both manage and prevent sleep deprivation,” Davis has explained.
Feeling bright and awake during the day isn’t just something that we owe to ourselves, either, as all manner of jobs rely on our ability to stay alert and fully functional while on the clock. Davis revealed exactly why, writing, “Lack of sleep has been implicated as playing a significant role in tragic accidents involving airplanes, ships, trains, automobiles and nuclear power plants.”
While most of us don’t work in nuclear power plants or fly planes, a significant proportion of the global population does drive. And operating a car while suffering through the effects of poor-quality sleep can potentially have fatal implications not just for us, but for others, too.
That’s something Laura Walter made plain in a 2013 report for occupational safety magazine EHS Today. There, she wrote, “A new study from Virginia Tech Transportation reveals that 20 percent of car crashes are caused by fatigue, with young drivers particularly vulnerable to driving while fatigued.”
Sleep doesn’t just affect what we do, though; it can also have a real impact on our day-to-day well-being. Writing for Healthline in spring 2020, Stephanie Watson and Kristeen Cherney claimed that sleep deprivation both “drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk.” They added, “Science has linked poor slumber with a number of health problems – from weight gain to a weakened immune system.”
Yes, unfortunately there are a whole host of physiological and physical issues that we can experience as a result of not having the required amount – or the required quality – of sleep. We can suffer changes in our mood, for instance, experience high blood pressure or even become at risk of disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.
So, what is sleep deprivation exactly? Well, as Davis puts it, the condition simply arises “when someone does not get a healthy amount of sleep.” Naturally, then, you need to establish what the right measure of rest is for you, as this can vary depending on your age.
It’s widely accepted that most adults require between seven and nine hours a night of quality slumber on a regular basis. The optimum quantity of sleep decreases as we grow older, however, with those aged 65 and over able to happily subsist on between seven and eight hours per night. And that amount is much greater for newborn babies, who may need as many as 17 hours of sleep every single day.
In short, then, sleep is vital to our wellbeing. Yet even though we can now confidently identify how long we should be dozing for – as well as recognize the alarming drawbacks to a lack of real rest – there’s still one big question to answer. How can we make sure we sleep well from now on?
It may not always be possible to achieve a restful night, of course. The amount of noise and light in and around the bedroom can play havoc with your sleeping pattern, for instance, and worrying about the day ahead certainly doesn’t help, either. Even so, there’s good news. You see, there are a few healthy habits you can adopt to help you achieve better-quality sleep.
Firstly, Davis suggests that we should be heading to our bedrooms as soon as we feel fatigued. If you’re yawning while trying to finish off that new Netflix series, then, listen to what your body’s telling you and turn off the TV. You should also follow patterns for both going to bed and getting up and maintain those procedures on a daily basis – even at weekends.
Davis similarly recommends not consuming any food for a few hours prior to going to bed. And it could be time to dust off that gym membership, too, as she also claims that physical exercise will help ensure our bodies are suitably tired when nighttime rolls around.
Furthermore, if you’ve made a habit of scrolling through your phone before putting your head down on the pillow, it’s time to cut that out. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Electronic devices emit an artificial blue light that can suppress the release of the body’s sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. In turn, this can interfere with the body’s natural internal clock that signals when it’s time to sleep and wake up.” The advice is clear: switch off those screens well before bedtime.
And, of course, you should make sure that the room you sleep in is suitably tranquil and free from intrusive light. So, while you may lapse a little here and there – stopping yourself looking at social media before bed is a hard habit to break, after all – you should definitely try to incorporate some of these good habits into your life.
But what of the temperatures at which we sleep? Well, naturally, it’s often hard to drop off if we’re either too hot or too cold, so Davis suggests that we keep the bedroom “comfortably cool.” And this, of course, is where we can consider wearing socks under the covers – something that may seem counter-intuitive on a warm summer’s evening.
What’s more, while heat and cold do indeed play a critical role in our sleep cycles, it’s perhaps not the one you’d expect. Our temperature plunges slightly in the early hours, in fact, and reaches its height in the afternoon when we’re at our liveliest – theoretically, anyway.
Your core body temperature is also intrinsically linked to your biological clock, which in turn produces something called a circadian rhythm. And this has a big influence on the body. You see, your circadian rhythm dictates your sleep; it’s what causes you to be tired in the evening and alert after the sun rises.
But what happens exactly as we bed down for the night? That’s something Stephen Gill has addressed in a 2018 article for Medical News Today. “When someone begins to fall asleep, the temperature of their body decreases by one to two degrees. This could be because the body is conserving energy for other functions,” Gill wrote.
Then, as the night stretches on, internal temperatures reduce slowly, plummeting to their lowest at approximately 4:00 a.m. So, although there may be such a thing as an average body temperature – approximately 98.6 °F – this can increase or decrease by a couple of degrees depending on where you are in your circadian cycle.
And as a lower core body temperature means bedtime, it’s recommended that you do what you can to doze in a space that’s not overly warm. “Good temperature regulation in the body is also why it is usually suggested that people keep their bedrooms cool – somewhere between 60 °F and 67 °F,” Gill has explained.
But what about wearing socks? Surely covering our feet like that in bed could cause us to overheat? Well, it seems that it’s not that simple at all, as, rather incredibly, a study has revealed that slipping on socks before climbing under the comforter may actually help us get to sleep more quickly.
Yes, a pair of researchers from South Korea’s National University drew some intriguing conclusions after looking into the effects of the practice. Their investigation – the results of which were published in a 2018 edition of the Journal of Physiological Anthropology – centered around two experiments involving adult males.
And the study’s findings were revealing. Yelin Ko and Joo-Young Lee claimed, “The results showed that sleep-onset latency was on average 7.5 minutes shorter, total sleep time was 32 minutes longer, the number of awakenings was 7.5 times smaller and sleep efficiency was 7.6 percent higher for those wearing feet-warming bed socks during a seven-hour sleep than control (no bed socks).”
Indeed, Ko and Lee made a convincing case for wearing socks to bed in their conclusion. “Feet warming using bed socks during sleep in a cool environment had positive effects on sleep quality by shortened sleep onset, lengthened sleep time and lessened awakenings during sleep,” they wrote.
And the researchers ended with a statement that may dismay anyone who’s ever argued against wearing socks to bed – many parents included. “These results imply that sleep quality could be improved by manipulation of the foot temperature throughout sleeping,” they revealed.
But why does covering your feet at night help expedite good-quality sleep? Well, in his piece for Medical News Today, Gill explained, “Warming up the feet and hands makes the blood vessels dilate – a response that is called vasodilation. This releases heat through the skin and helps to lower core body temperature, [which] in turn sends a message to the brain that it is bedtime.”
In short, then, wearing socks to bed actually allows the body to better regulate its core temperature, thus facilitating a better night’s sleep. And while this notion may seem a little strange to contemplate – particularly if you’re prone to overheating under the covers – the science is there to back it up.
That’s not all, either. You see, further research suggests that there are other additional benefits to going to bed with your socks on. Putting on a pair before turning in for the night could help ease the symptoms of Reynaud’s disease, for instance.
Reynaud’s disease leads to episodes in which a sufferer’s hands or feet experience restricted blood circulation. These extremities then begin to cool, become desensitized and even alter in shade. So, keeping feet warm at night, as socks help to do, could potentially alleviate these negative consequences.
And the benefits of wearing socks to bed don’t end there – particularly if you’re going through the menopause. Many experiencing “the change” endure the discomfort of hot flashes, which can cause perspiration, tremors, overwhelming feelings of warmth and notable reddening of the face.
What exactly does this have to do with wearing socks in bed? Well, interestingly, hot flashes are linked to changing levels of the hormones associated with the regulation of internal temperature. And as we’ve already mentioned, sleeping in socks can help control how warm or cool our bodies are, meaning the practice can potentially limit the occurrence of hot flashes at night.
Many do not experience the menopause, of course, and not everyone will suffer from Reynaud’s disease. But pretty much all of us will seek out good-quality sleep more or less every single night. And it appears that wearing socks while dozing really can help us in achieving that – despite what we may have been told in the past.
In fact, in a 2019 piece for Healthline, Daniela Ginta neatly summed up the benefits that donning socks in bed can bring. “Warming up your feet before going to bed can shorten the amount of time needed to relax and doze off. This in turn can increase the quality of your sleep,” she has explained.
Ginta does add some caveats, though. “Make sure the socks you wear are soft, comfortable and not too bulky. Consult a doctor if you have circulatory problems that cause pain and cold feet, or if you often have cold feet even when it’s warm,” she warned. And some people, of course, just won’t fancy the idea of keeping their socks on when retiring for the night.
But if you really aren’t enamored with the thought of sleeping in socks, fear not, as there are alternatives. Placing a hot water bottle at the end of the bed, taking a foot bath prior to turning in for the night or covering your lower extremities with a blanket can help, too. And they’re certainly all worth a try if you’re the type to toss and turn into the wee small hours.
When you finally wake up, however, you’ll likely be itching for breakfast. Perhaps you’ll plump for peanut butter on toast; after all, that’ll give you the quick energy you need to head out and start your day. But before you consider your next meal in the morning, you may want to find out how the nutty treat really affects you.
If you’re a peanut butter lover, then you’ll know how incredibly versatile the spread is. Slathered over apple slices or just a piece of toast, it can totally transform relatively plain foods into mouthwatering morsels. But do you know what your peanut butter addiction is doing to your health? Well, according to researchers, the nutty treat could have a startling impact on your body if it’s a regular part of your daily diet.
Peanut butter isn’t for everyone, though – not least because of its unusual consistency. And regardless of whether you pick the creamy or crunchy variety of the paste, it’s often so thick that it can become glued to the top of your mouth – which doesn’t always work in its favor.
Yet peanut butter also has the uncanny ability to go with practically anything. The nutty spread also adds a new layer of taste to tried-and-tested snacks; while a helping of chocolate is already delicious, smoothing over a portion of peanut butter can take things to another level.
And, of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple of lunchboxes across the land. So, you may already be eating your fair share of peanut butter throughout the week; if you’re not, though, a group of experts have explained just why you should consider the idea.
But for now, let’s explore peanut butter’s enduring popularity. And it’s fair to say that the paste doesn’t seem to be falling out of favor in the U.S. According to Statista, in 2017 American consumers splashed out around $1.85 billion on the foodstuff. That amounts to well over 500 million jars of peanut butter leaving store shelves.
In 2018 Statista also revealed that, apparently, close to 290 million citizens of the United States – or almost 90 percent of the population – ate peanut butter. That’s obviously a huge number, and it seems to prove just how beloved the tasty spread really is across the country.
The Texas Peanuts website also has some interesting statistics about peanut butter consumption in the United States. According to the site, hungry Americans each consume an average of about three pounds of the stuff annually. In total, then, around 700 million pounds of the delicious spread is eaten in the U.S. per year.
But while you may think that the U.S. leads the way when it comes to eating peanut butter, you’d be mistaken. In a 2012 interview with Columbia University Press, author and journalist Jon Krampner explained, “Americans aren’t the only people who like [peanut butter], but almost no one likes it more than we do. The two exceptions are Canadians and the Dutch, who eat more peanut butter on a per capita basis than we do.”
But what exactly is this peanut butter consumption really doing for us all? Well, it depends in part on the type of spread you choose. That’s according to nutrition expert Kris Gunnars, who delved into the subject while writing for the Healthline website in April 2018.
Gunnars explained, “Peanut butter is a relatively unprocessed food. It’s basically just peanuts, often roasted, that are ground until they turn into a paste. However, this doesn’t apply to many commercial brands of peanut butter that contain various added ingredients such as sugar, vegetable oils and even trans fat.”
“Eating too much added sugar and trans fat has been linked to various health problems, such as heart disease,” Gunnars went on. “Rather than buying junk food, [then], choose real peanut butter. It should contain nothing but peanuts and maybe a bit of salt.” And that should give you plenty of food for thought on your next trip to the store.
Even so, the labeling on a jar of peanut butter may confuse you. For example, what’s the difference between a “natural” product and a “regular” item? And is the “unsweetened” option really better for you than an alternative with added sugar? Let’s clear things up a little.
Regular peanut butter, for example, must contain only hydrogenated oils, salt and sweeteners as well as a minimum of 90 percent of peanuts. And as you may already have guessed, the unsweetened options possess no supplementary sugar – making them typically one of the more healthy choices.
Natural peanut butter products, on the other hand, often have a very distinctive look. You see, while natural peanut butter may be free from stabilizers, there’s usually still a layer of oil sitting on the surface of the jar. So, before slapping the paste on to your snacks, you need to mix it up.
Then, after a certain amount of time, the oils will naturally rise up out of the peanut butter – meaning you’ll have to stir the jar again ahead of your next meal. In 2017 writer Max Bonem explained the difference between natural and regular peanut butters in a piece for Food & Wine.
Bonem revealed, “Natural peanut butter tends to be a bit grainier than its conventional counterpart – even if it’s ‘creamy.’ The natural separation [between the spread and the oil] is more likely to occur if you store peanut butter at room temperature. However, if you refrigerate it, natural peanut butter becomes much more difficult to work with.”
Bonem added, however, “Conventional peanut butter is a cohesive spread that remains as is – regardless of temperature or where it’s stored. [So], if you’re someone who enjoys the occasional spoonful of peanut butter to snack on, conventional is undoubtedly the way to go.”
As Gunnars previously highlighted, though, regular peanut butter products typically possess trans fats. So, while regular peanut butter may be easier to use than its natural counterpart, eating it in excess could pose a risk to your long-term health. And a professor from the University of Missouri has broken things down even further.
Speaking to Infegy in 2013, Dr. Dale Brigham said, “Trans fats do the ‘double whammy’ of increasing heart disease risk by lowering HDL [high-density lipoprotein] – the good cholesterol – and raising LDL [low-density lipoprotein], the bad cholesterol. Even if regular peanut butter has a label that states ‘zero grams trans fat,’ it can contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving.”
However, while there are clearly some downsides to eating certain types of peanut butter, you shouldn’t forget about the potential health benefits. Yes, while steering clear of excess trans fats is a must, a daily serving of the spread could still do wonders for your body.
For instance, did you know that peanuts can actually help you to shed a few pounds? Yes, although nuts contain substantial amounts of fat, both this and their high levels of protein should help curb your hunger after only a few bites. In turn, that can stop you from overindulging. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2018 has even hinted that the snack could lessen your chances of becoming obese.
And that extends to peanut butter as well, according to Gunnars. “Since peanut butter is very high in fat, a 100-gram portion contains a hefty dose of 588 calories,” he wrote on the Healthline website. “[However], despite [this] high calorie content, eating moderate amounts of pure peanut butter or whole peanuts is perfectly fine on a weight-loss diet.”
Gunnars continued, “Half of the fat in peanut butter is made up of oleic acid – a healthy type of monounsaturated fat also found in high amounts in olive oil. Oleic acid has been linked to several health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity. Peanut butter also contains some linoleic acid – an essential omega-6 fatty acid abundant in most vegetable oils.”
Peanut butter additionally features a number of different vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and vitamin E – all of which we need in order to keep functioning in tip-top condition. The foodstuff is similarly packed with beneficial minerals including copper, magnesium, zinc and iron.
And purer versions of peanut butter could be especially helpful if you’ve been diagnosed with a particular condition. Gunnars has claimed, you see, that those with type 2 diabetes could benefit from incorporating the cleaner and healthier varieties of the spread into their diets.
Gunnars divulged, “[Peanut butter] also causes a very low rise in blood sugar, and [so it] is a perfect option for people with type 2 diabetes. One observational study showed that women who ate peanut butter five times per week or more were at a 21 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. These benefits have been partly attributed to oleic acid.”
Elsewhere, peanut butter has the potential to help mental health. This may sound a little strange at first, but hear us out. Specifically, the nutty treat harbors monounsaturated fatty acids – otherwise known as MUFAs – that can actually protect the functionality of your brain.
And this is especially helpful if you’re susceptible to stress, as that feeling usually has a negative impact on your brain’s activities. Simply put, a boost in MUFAs should help shield the organ from some of the more detrimental effects that stress creates in our day-to-day lives.
Thanks to the beta-sitosterol found in peanut butter, you may also be able to keep your anxiety in check. How? Well, it appears that, crucially, this handy substance has the power to considerably lower the amount of cortisol in your body – which can be naturally high if you’re worrying.
During periods of strain, the human body may slip into a state known as “fight or flight mode” and, as a consequence, churn out cortisol. But when the beta-sitosterol enters your system and brings these quantities of the hormone down, you should begin to feel a lot calmer than you were before.
Expectant mothers may want to think about adding peanut butter to their diets, too. Back in 2015 a group from Vanderbilt University helmed a project that looked into the health benefits of the spread. And over the course of their research, the team made a stunning discovery about peanut butter’s effects on unborn babies.
According to the researchers, if a pregnant woman has three to five servings of peanuts each week, her fetus will be less likely to be allergic to the foodstuff after it’s born. The belief is that the contents of the snack will filter down to the womb, thus allowing the fetus to “acclimatize” to peanuts and their effects.
And if that wasn’t enough, a different project outlined in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2013 has seemingly found that young women could lessen their chances of acquiring so-called “benign breast disease” by consuming more peanut butter. Foods such as soy, beans and vegetables were also said to help.
However, among all of these positives, there’s another thing to keep in mind. In his post for Healthline, Gunnars revealed that peanut butter could be harboring a potentially dangerous and even cancer-provoking component – although the risks to health are seemingly slim if you typically consume processed versions of the product.
Gunnars revealed, “Even though peanut butter is quite nutritious, it may also contain substances that can be harmful. At the top of the list are the so-called aflatoxins. Peanuts grow underground, where they tend to be colonized by a ubiquitous mold called Aspergillus. This mold is a source of aflatoxins, which are highly carcinogenic.”
“While humans are fairly resistant to the short-term effects of aflatoxins, what happens down the line is not fully known at this point,” Gunnars continued. “Some human studies have linked aflatoxin exposure to liver cancer and stunted growth in children.” Despite those concerns, though, the nutrition expert did have some positive news to share.
Gunnars cited a source, you see, that claimed the risks posed by aflatoxins were cut by 89 percent in peanut butter. This is apparently down to the production process that sees peanuts get ground into a paste. The United States Department of Agriculture has kept watch over the substance, too.
So, does Gunnars believe that we should be adding more peanut butter to our diets? Well, in his mind, the health benefits are certainly worth it. But that doesn’t mean we should be going overboard – especially if peanut butter is a component of an otherwise unhealthy snack.
“There are a lot of good things about peanut butter,” Gunnars wrote. “It’s fairly rich in nutrients and a decent protein source. It’s also loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Even though you shouldn’t use peanut butter as a dominant food source in your diet, it’s probably fine to eat every now and then in small amounts.”
Gunnars then concluded, “Moderate consumption of peanut butter is unlikely to have any major negative effects as long as you are avoiding truly awful foods like sugary soda, trans fats and other highly processed junk foods.” And given what we’ve learned here about the health benefits of peanut butter, that’s some good advice to follow.