December is almost in full swing, and with it comes the freezing temperatures and short, dark days that many of us have grown to dread. Instead of continuing this trend of slugging through these next three months with a sense of melancholy, let’s look at some ways in which the cold can actually help boost our wellness, bodies and minds.
A cold room can actually improve sleep quality. Take insomniacs, for example, who seem unable to regulate their body heat appropriately during their sleep cycle. The result is a disturbance in their circadian rhythm that ultimately keeps them awake long into the night. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study that found that cooling caps, meant to cool down a person’s internal temperature, increased duration and sleep quality in insomniacs. Of course nobody is implying that sleeping outside in December is a good idea, but cracking a window and bundling up under the covers could yield some beneficial results.
The cold has a tendency to shock our immune system in surprisingly positive ways. Shivering, a natural response to maintain internal body temperature, burns an incredible amount of calories. A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that shivering stimulates the secretion of irisin, a hormone that induces fat burning. Apparently, just 15 minutes spent shivering in a cold environment has the same effect as exercising for an hour.
Cold days can sharpen your cognitive function. In 2017, researchers at Stanford found that people perform tasks like decision making and remaining calm with a greater sense of clarity and logic. In essence, impulsivity drops as the thermostat does. Research has also shown that people are less inclined to tackle complex tasks in the summer than in the winter. Our brains require glucose to function, but the body uses more of it when it’s warm in order to keep its temperature low. The result is less fuel for reasoning and memory recall.