I Tried This Nordic Sleep Method, and It’s Given Me the Best Sleep of My Life

published Jun 3, 2024
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For someone whose favorite pastimes include naps, I’m a terrible sleeper. If there’s a listicle with recommendations for optimizing slumber, I pore through it hoping to discover the cure for my inability to sleep through the night. I’ve tried different mattresses, sleep-optimized pillows, white noise apps, and nighttime routines to varying degrees of success. But this past winter I stumbled upon a traditional Nordic sleep tradition that actually dramatically improved my sleep quality.

Last year I caught a glimpse of a viral Instagram post making the rounds on social media. In the post, Danish musician Amalie Brunn shared that her newborn frequently sleeps outdoors. As is routine with viral sensations, folks online expressed a spectrum of reactions. Unsurprisingly, Americans in particular seemed baffled by the practice given the United States’ exceptionally involved parenting style. 

Curious about this Nordic sleep habit’s effect on infants, I delved further. In one video, TikTok creator Annie in Eventyrland explains that Nordic parents utilize the region’s chilly climate to optimize infant sleep. Parents, commonly at the recommendation of midwives, pediatricians, and seasoned grandparents alike, routinely park their baby carriages outside restaurants and stores, letting their babies nap outside while parents dine or grocery shop nearby. 

Predictably, many Americans’ initial reaction was, “Wait, do Nordic countries not have kidnappers?” Apparently — and happily! — that’s not a huge concern in the region. I, on the other hand, was simply curious about the connection between the temperature and sleep quality. According to Nordic parents, the open air promotes a healthy immune system, and the baby’s blankets and clothing help regulate their temperature in any weather. Norwegians even have a common phrase, “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær,” meaning, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”

One factor that consistently interrupts my slumber is my body temperature. No duvet, mattress, or pajama set has helped me achieve a solid night’s rest. Scientists have long understood the connection, however. An environmental temperature ranging from 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit helps lower core body temperature, thus signaling to the body that it’s time to sleep. I decided to test this truth in my own bedroom, amateur scientist and very sleepy lady that I am. 

Chicago’s winters can be brutal, and the thought of exposing my cozy bed to an open window in January seemed counterintuitive. But inspired by slumbering Nordic infants, I let the frigid Chicago air fill my bedroom for a couple of hours leading to bedtime — enough time to alter the room’s temperature, but not long enough to chill the rest of my apartment. Before crawling into bed, I closed the window and shuffled quickly under the covers. The room temperature easily clocked in at the lower 60s — perfect for kick-starting my snoozefest.  

I’m delighted to report that this sleep method has genuinely improved the quality of my sleep. I found myself falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. It’s not a perfect solution, but was successful enough that I made this practice my routine. 

Credit: Lula Poggi

Not only does the science behind the temperature check out, but also I appreciated the fresh air exposure. It cleansed my wintery bedroom of that stuffy central heating-tinged air which can become bothersome after so many months indoors. 

While Chicagoans citywide are cheering on the glorious incoming summer months (when the Windy City truly shines), I’m over here pouting. Unfortunately, my Nordic sleep method won’t be feasible as the muggy air heats up and the cicadas hard-launch their screeching season. I’ve started to test alternatives to my open window technique, including blasting our air conditioner within the hour before bedtime. I’m also rotating through our bedsheets and comforters hoping to identify a breathable combination for summer. So far, I haven’t come close to capturing the blissful slumber I briefly enjoyed. Plus, my husband naturally runs cold, and he’s starting to look like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining (not great!). Short of moving to Finland, it’s looking like all I can do is power through Chicago’s toasty summer and pray for October. But rest assured, this coming fall and winter you’ll find me sleeping like a Nordic baby!