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The Secret to A Better Night’s Sleep? Your Foot

Britt Aboutaleb
Managing Editor
August 12, 2014

Photo: Sarah Maingot/Trunk Archive

I’ve always slept with one foot sticking out from underneath the covers. I have no idea why, or when it started, but unless it’s particularly cold in my room, one foot gets to breathe. I never thought much of it, but one New York Magazine writer was driven to find out why she did the same—and there is actually a reason!

Natalie Dautovitch, the spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation and a psychology professor at the University of Alabama, says the habit probably stems from the human body’s need to cool down before sleep. Your temperature drops mid-slumber, and manipulating that drop before you hit the sheets can help ease you toward sleep—think of it as an even more natural melatonin. So you can take a hot shower or drink a cup of tea, as writer Melissa Dahl suggests, or you can open a window and stick out your foot. 

Dautovitch says the skin on your hands and feet is different from the rest of your body, which is why they directly influence body temperature: “They’re hairless and…they contain specialized vascular structures that help with heat loss. Specifically, the hands and feet contain blood vessels called the arteriovenous anastomoses, which — coupled with the lack of hair on the bottoms of your feet — are perfectly designed to help dissipate body heat,” Dahl writes.   

No there haven’t been any studies done on the topic, but Dautovitch’s theory is enough to turn my weird habit into a scientifically sound practice.