Under the hood

Warming up for winter

With the holidays around the corner, you can beat brutal winter temperatures with a few smart purchases that promote good health, are energy efficient, and can last a lifetime


Ever been accused of having a thin skin? When it comes to maintaining proper body temperature, this old adage is no joke. As we age, our metabolic rate decreases and our skin literally thins. Often, our aging bodies are not capable of generating enough heat to help maintain our normal 98.6-degree body temperature. Certainly, maintaining an active lifestyle, including mild exercise, can offset this heat loss, but not everyone can. Sub-zero temperatures can be particularly brutal in the bedroom, and with today’s focus on the environment and decreasing energy consumption, turning up a thermostat is not always the best solution. After all, why heat a whole house when all that’s needed is a bit of extra attention in specific areas?
We hearty Minnesotans know that keeping a cooler bedroom is recommended, but we can take a hint from our European friends by creating a warmer welcome to the bedroom just before our bedtime.

The bed warmer
Memories of Mrs. Senior’s copper bed warmer being slipped into my guest bed in Edinburgh, Scotland sent me on a quest. I keep the temps down in my home but slipping into an ice-cold bed on frigid winter nights doesn’t promote falling asleep easily. Not willing or able to heat a copper bed warmer, I set out to find the safest and most efficient way to send myself to the land of nod. My research confirmed that heated mattress pads are the safest and most efficient forms of electric bedding.
According to the Electric Blanket Institute, safety is the number one consideration for any electric bedding. Happily, modern electric bedding products don’t get as hot as older models, a key feature geared to preventing fires. The EBI suggests choosing products that are durable, able to be washed repeatedly, and preferably with a minimum five-year warranty. Be sure to consider models that offer well-lit controls that are easy to operate for those with poor eyesight or arthritis. And importantly, they recommend only brands with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) mark – indicating they have passed rigorous safety standards.
In side-by-side comparisons, electric mattress pads top blankets for both safety and efficiency. Because pads lie flat, they tend not to overheat, as is the case with blankets that can easily ball up, making pads safer. On the efficiency side of the ledger, since heat radiates upward, half the heat is lost with a blanket. Additionally, our bodies and bedding act as insulators, holding in the heat. Finally, most pads heat up quicker than blankets – five to 10 minutes versus up to an hour or longer.
My long-time machine washable, multi-temperature, dual control mattress pad bed warmer has an auto shut off timer. It has turned my queen mattress into a 5-star slumber vessel every winter night! This device works so well, I can crank it up before turning in, then shut it off for a toasty, nightlong snooze.

Take the chill off
While it’s recommended to keep a cooler bedroom, sub-zero outdoor temps can create sub-par sleeping conditions. As with switching on the mattress pad, you can pre-heat the bedroom with an energy efficient electric oil heater, which is rated as safer than fan-driven models for many reasons: they are low wattage, don’t blow dust around (so they’re great for allergy suffers), and are silent. With only one hour of preheating, you can shut your heater off, creating a toasty welcome and a great night’s sleep.

Breathe free
Dry winter air cracks skin and dries sinuses. A way to create a perfect night and daytime indoor environment is by investing in a humidifier. A cool mist humidifier is the preferred option to a warm mist humidifier in terms of safety, cost and area covered. A warm mist humidifier must boil water to create steam so there is always a risk for burns, and because it uses heat to boil water, it consumes more energy. Also, while heated steam produces a more concentrated stream, a cool water humidifier spreads droplets over a much wider area.
A one-room capacity ultrasonic cool mist humidifier provides relief from dry skin and allergy symptoms, plus extra defense against airborne illnesses by keeping germs at bay with an active carbon filter!

Bottoms Up!
My European holidays also introduced to me to the luxury and hygiene of heated-seat bidets. A bidet (pronounced beh-DAY – from the French) is basically a sanitary toilet apparatus with a warm lavatory seat and a warm water shower that sprays water to clean one’s genitals. Europe, Japan and other parts of the world have long utilized this sensible alternative to wiping. Washing with water is gentler than scraping dry paper across your tender parts, which may irritate and damage the sensitive tissue and nerve endings. Some units even feature a handy puff of air for drying. Using a soft stream of water is excellent for individuals who suffer irritable bowel syndrome or have difficulty reaching behind themselves. Plus, the gentle jet cleans more efficiently, and provides the added environmental benefits of buying and using less paper.
After another short internet sleuthing session comparing available products, I found an affordable bidet toilet seat that requires minimal installation. With a three-temperature heated seat and dual washing wands for separate front and back cleaning, this fourth addition transforms a bedroom and in-suite bathroom into a five-star hotel experience!

Four easy pieces
It’s easy and inexpensive to create a smart, simple way to enhance your lifestyle during Minnesota’s dark, cold days of winter. Isn’t it worth it to invest in yourself, or as a gift this holiday season? Sweet dreams.


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