Cold Feet, Can't Sleep


Cold Feet, Can't Sleep


It has been known for centuries that if your feet are cold at night, then you will not sleep well. There are many reasons for cold feet and concerns should be discussed with a medical doctor. Throughout time, there have been various devices used to keep the feet warm at night. The first bed warmers/hot water bottles (three separate words) were metal containers used in the 16th century. This was followed by hot water bottles made of stoneware and glass with a cork stopper to keep the water inside. In Kentucky, bottle warmers were still being suggested in the late 1800s as a way of warming the feet at night [attached source: “Cold Feet and Sleeplessness,” Bourbon News, 05/30/1882, p.2]. Various kinds of hot water bottles made of Indian rubber were used in England. Florence Nightingale was said to prefer a hot water bottle made of ceramic or Indian rubber. The first modern-day hot water bottle was patented in 1903 by Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, a Croatian engineer. The use of hot water bottles made of rubber was well received in the United States until about the 1980s when the market started to decline. The change was due to the availability of other nighttime heat options: more homes with central heating, thermostat-free electric blankets, and cheaper electric heating pads. Today, China and India are the largest suppliers of hot water bottles. In the U.S., the market changed but the belief did not change. According to the National Feet Foundation at, “The relationship between warm hands and feet and falling asleep may be what’s behind the age-old belief that placing a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed is good for sleep.”


Champ & Roby




1. The image of the old metal bed bottle comes from mattiasboeckel @ Pixabay.
2. The image of the red cloth-covered hot water bottle comes from succo @ Pixabay.
3. “Cold Feet and Sleeplessness,” Bourbon News, 1882-05-30, p.2


Reinette Jones, University of Kentucky Librarian & African American Studies Academic Liaison


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“Cold Feet, Can't Sleep,” Kentucky Digital Newspaper Program Exhibits, accessed March 25, 2023,

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