According to a large survey, less than 1 In 10 Americans sleep in the buff. This is a sad finding considering the fantastic (and scientifically proven!) reasons we gain from ditching PJ’s and slipping into our birthday suit. Check out these surprising health benefits ranging from improved hormonal balance and mood to less belly fat, more sex and beyond.
- Boost your anti-aging hormones: Plenty of people like to feel cozy at bedtime, but a sleep environment that’s too warm can prevent the natural cooling that should take place in your body while you sleep. Keeping your body or your bedroom too warm (higher than 70˚F [21˚Cç) will disrupt the release of your main anti-aging hormones, melatonin and growth hormone. When we sleep in total darkness, melatonin is released, triggering a very slight but critical cool-down in the body. As body temperature drops, growth hormone is released and works its regenerative magic. In fact, sleep itself has been touted as a magic pill precisely because it encourages the release of this youthful hormone. In a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers showed that you can get safe, legal doses of growth hormone – and even improve athletic performance – just by hitting the sack for a deep, restorative sleep . Its also good for your health in other ways – researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20 to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10 to 20% reduction in heart rate during sleep.
- Improve body composition: As mentioned, wearing heavy blankets or clothing to bed will impede the release of growth hormone, which means you won’t burn fat while you sleep or benefit from night-time repair of your bones, skin and muscles. Growth hormone (HGH) affects just about every cell in the body. It’s essential for tissue repair, muscle building, bone density and healthy body composition. People who sleep less than six hours a night may be three times more likely to develop a condition which leads to diabetes and heart disease (and in turn, weight gain), according to researchers at the University of Warwick. When your sleep is insufficient, your cortisol and hunger hormones both surge, causing a corresponding increase in insulin. You also experience decreases in the fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones.
- Get deeper sleep: Research has shown that certain forms of insomnia associated with faulty body temperature regulation and the inability to cool down at night enough to spark a deeper stage of sleep. In one Dutch study, scientists placed thermosuits on participants to lower skin temperature less than one degree celcius without affecting core body temperature. The result? People didn’t wake up as much during the night and the percentage of the sleep spent in stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep) increased. In elderly subjects a 0.4 C decrease in skin temperature caused a decline in the probability of early morning waking from 0.58 to 0.04. And believe it or not, you don’t sweat or shiver during REM sleep so have no fear that ditching the layers will have you dreaming of icicles.
- Lower cortisol and belly fat: As you cool down at night and growth hormone increases, cortisol will also decrease with healthy sleep patterns. Between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am is the time when your body is truly resting and recuperating (and cortisol should be at it’s lowest). By 2 am your adrenal glands (stress glands) begin to work to produce cortisol, in preparation for the next day, which also peaks at 4 am and then should naturally reach its highest point around 6 am – just at the right time to get you up out of bed feeling energized. On the nights that you do not sleep enough, you will wake with a level of cortisol that is abnormally high. This is known to trigger your appetite – especially for comfort foods (muffins, cookies, etc) and your tendency to overeat, increase tension/anxiety and fuel belly fat – even in people who are otherwise thin. High cortisol levels weaken the body’s immune system, raise blood pressure and cholesterol, increase appetite, disrupt our normal sleep patterns, lower your libido increases cravings for sugar and carbs and more. It will also contribute to other hormonal imbalances and health conditions including PMS, infertility, thyroid disease and abnormal blood sugars.
- Higher levels of oxytocin. If you and your partner both sleep in the nude, you can be reaping the benefits of this feel-good hormone. Skin to skin touching (with intimacy, a massage, intercourse, or cuddling) is all that is required. Also involved in sexual responsiveness and orgasm, the hormone oxytocin counteracts stress and depression by combating the harmful effects of cortisol and reduces blood pressure. It has also been shown to improve gut motility and decrease intestinal inflammation. Another bonus? More .. ahem … opportunities. Let’s face it, there’s nothing that turns your partner off faster than head-to-toe flannel pajamas. And orgasms are nature’s best sleep aid.