Sunday, January 3, 2010

Igloos, Eskimos, and Co-sleeping

Snow and ice are cold. Its hard to imagine that a house made of ice and snow can actually keep anyone warm, yet we all know that the Eskimos stay nice and toasty in their frozen igloos.
How do these Arctic dwellers prevent frostbite when living in sub-zero temperatures in their homes made of the same ice and snow?

The human body's temperature is on average 98.6 degrees Farenheit, no matter what the outside temperature. Our body's metabolic system heats up our bodies using the energy from calories burnt. We are constantly radiating energy and losing it and our bodies are constantly warming ourselves up again.
When the outside temperature is too low, our body loses heat faster than it regains it and we are in danger of getting dangerously cold.

The way that Eskimos manage to retain warmth in the frosty Actic in their igloos is this: Heat is always escaping, diffusing from warmer areas to colder areas. By insulating themselves with bricks of ice, the heat from their body and from fires lit within does not escape as quickly. The air inside igloos warms up because the heat is not able to diffuse speedily because of the insulation.

This blog is not a science blog. The reason I explained about Eskimos and igloos is because we can utilize the same methods as they do to keep ourselves warm on wintery nights.

As our bodies diffuse heat into the surrounding air, if we are able to insulate that heat and get the warmth to remain near our bodies, we do not end up needing to heat the surrounding air as much via heaters. Warm pajamas and down blankets work as good insulators to retain our body heat in the air immediately next to us.

However much heat one body gives off, two bodies give off twice as much heat, three bodies give off thrice as much heat, etc.

When people sleep next to each other and under the same insulating blanket, there is less of a need for heating.

There are many ways you can utilize this method to keep yourselves warm while sleeping. Husbands and wives could sleep together under the same blanket. Mothers and babies can co-sleep together and share each other's body heat. Siblings can share a bed and warm each other up.
It is a new "invention" for each person to have their own sleeping space. In past times, children would sleep in their parents beds until they reach a certain age; once they got older, they shared beds with their siblings. I'll bet you that one of the big reasons for this sleeping method, aside for lack of space, was because it lessened the need to heating the home at night.
If it is feasible to get two of more family members to sleep under the same blanket, you'll be lessening the need for heating in your home.

If discomfort or other reasons preclude you from using the bed-sharing method of keeping warm at night, there is an alternative method of warming that involves heat diffused from non human sources.
Hot water bottles are great ways of keeping warmth beneath your covers without necessitating heating the whole room. Easy, simple, and cheap.
Boiling a kettle of water costs very little money. You pour the boiling water into the hot water bottle and the rubber of the hot water bottle works as an insulator. For many hours, heat diffuses slowly through the rubber, warming up the air under the covers, the air close to your skin.
Some hot water bottles come with a cloth insulator, which makes them diffuse the heat even more slowly. Just look how cute this one is. Don't you just want to cuddle up with it in your bed?
A hot water bottle can easily continue warming from when you go to sleep until when you wake in the morning.
In my experience, the best place to keep a hot water bottle is under my blanket, near my stomach. When it cools down somewhat, I put it touching my skin.
Use more than one hot water bottle for an either greater effect.

Whether you decide to use body heat or hot water heat, remember the trick of the Eskimos- proper insulation can keep the warm within, even on the coldest of nights.


  1. I really hope you don't co-sleep with an infant with all the bed clothing and blankets you referenced in an earlier post. I'm all for co-sleeping, and I co-slept with my son for a year and a half, but that many blankets and "bed jackets" cannot be safe for a young infant.

    1. Yes,I've heard of infants being smothered and/or suffocated this way.

  2. in my opinion, you can be cheap with yourself,but you cant be cheap with ur kids. and when it comes to kids who can be sick, or are not comfortable wearing hudreds of layers and are too big to sleep with you, and then they turn into teenagers who i doubt will be all into the eskimo routine unless you live in alaska. kids, you cant really expect them to where coats and sleep together anymore.

    your assumingly young and have no older kids, so right now it seems all too easy. wait till they get big and start needing the basics that you can do very well without.

  3. Wow, harsh comments. I co-sleep, with balnkets. I always know where by baby is, since we're snuggling. And you CAN expect children to live the way that you raise them if you raise them diligently.

    I found this post to be insightful. Thank you for writing it. ( I hope you didn't get these trolls from me, and if you did, I'm sorry!)

  4. Anonymous 1- I'll admit, I don't usually sleep with a bed jacket and a million layers and a down comforter AND an infant. This year with an infant, the winter hasnt been so cold and with all those layers I really would be boiling my head off. I get so warm just from co-sleeping with my son that I have no need for any of the above aside for fleece pajamas, but I definitely do not see where that could even remotely be a danger to an infant.

    Anonymous 2, I am not cheap with my kids. My home is definitely not cold. I have many other methods of heating my home which do not involve "heaters". People walk into my house and comment on the warmth. My kids are not getting sick from cold. I dress them in warm pajamas and they are comfortable...
    If they don't want to share a bed with someone else, that is fine. For now my 2.5 year old is co-sleeping with my husband and I co-sleep with our baby.
    I know many kids that when they stop co-sleeping with parents they miss having someone in their bed and end up in their siblings' beds at night.
    But I don't think anyone needs to co-sleep. If they don't want to do that, good for them. I was just saying how co-sleeping aids in nighttime warmth.
    Instead of co-sleeping they can use hot packs in their beds. I don't see teenagers resenting that.
    There are no "basics" that i'm doing without, not any one that will become a "need" one day.

  5. Emily, I don't mind harsh comments on my blog.
    John Chow of JohnChow.com (the best make money by blogging blog on the net) says that if you have people dissing you, it means that you've grown big enough for dissers and dissenters. I can't expect everyone to share my opinions and views on things, so I'll take criticism as a fact of life and see if there's anything to gain from it, and if not, dismiss it.
    I thought we have a lot in common. As I post more things on this blog, i won't be surprised if we discover even more in common...

  6. I came across this blog post when searching how to keep baby (and parents!) warm at night while co-sleeping. We've previously all shared a sheet and a duvet, with baby between mum and dad and this worked fine. But now she is older (10months) and moving around and playing with the blankets, so I dont know if I should put her in a sleep sack and sleep her on top of the covers, or just dress her warmer and make sure she doesn't have any covers or what?! There's nothing on the internet that says exactly HOW to dress and WHAT blankets to use that suit everyone in the bed. Any advice??

  7. I never though that just putting hot water in a waterball would be your own little heater! Amazing ideaa. When I go off to college after I finish highschool and I get one of those little house dorms to myself, I can save a ton of money! Any suggestions on electricity?


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