The leaves have fallen and colder temperatures and longer nights are here. People associate winter with cozy blankets and hibernation, so it’s only natural to think that sleep is much easier. While this may be the case for some people, many people struggle to get sufficient and quality sleep. If you are one of those people, this article may help you find more zzz’s this winter.
The extended darkness can throw off your circadian rhythm, which can disrupt sleep schedule. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can make you feel sluggish, which can cause stress, overeating, and mood swings. Additionally, people who live in darker areas may develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that can negatively impact sleep and mood.
Although there may not be a magic remedy to help you fall asleep instantaneously, you can improve sleep with a few simple tips. You have the power to fight the elements that may make sleep more difficult. Continue reading to learn how you can improve sleep this winter.
Use A Humidifier
Your sleeping environment can dictate how well you sleep. Many people can experience trouble breathing because of indoor heating. The heat increases dryness in the home and it can cause dry mouth, making it difficult to breathe properly while sleeping. This is especially dangerous for people with sleep apnea or asthma. A small humidifier in your room may be the key to unlock sound nights of sleep this winter.
Don’t Wind Down Too Early
Obviously, the degree of darkening during the winter depends on where you live. Some places in the United States may only experience eight hours of daylight per day, while western and southern states may get a couple extra hours of daylight. Reduced daylight means that your body can’t rely on regular cues from light and darkness, thus leading to a circadian shift. More darkness can affect melatonin production, especially if you spend more time indoors. Because it gets darker earlier, it’s easier to wind down earlier. Instead, stick to your regular sleep habits because you may fall asleep too early and wake up in the middle of the night if you wind down too early. Keep your circadian rhythm in sync with its usual schedule to avoid under- or over-sleeping.
Watch Out For Overeating
How does this affect your sleep? Well, winter can cause people to eat more and exercise less. The colder weather causes people to crave heartier, larger, and heavier meals. A large meal may make you feel tired, but overeating (and the weight gain that may ensue) isn’t great for sleep quality. Additionally, eating a large meal too close to bedtime can increase the risk of heartburn or gastrointestinal issues, which can disturb sleep.
Exercise is beneficial for quality, nightly rest, no matter what time of year it is. Staying physically active can also reduce symptoms of SAD, which can impact sleep. Timing your exercise during winter is of the utmost importance because the time at which you exercise can increase the benefits. A short workout in the morning can help energize the body. Additionally, working out before dinner can prevent you from crawling into bed right after dinner. Basically, exercise can help keep your biological clock alert and keep you awake at the right times.
Warm Up Before Sleep
The last thing you want to do is get into bed with the shivers. You don’t need to crank the heater, but it may help to warm up the body in some cozy pajamas or a blanket before getting into bed. Layering up can help you trap body heat, keeping you toasty warm and comfortable. Flannel pajamas, long-johns, fleece clothing, hoodies, and socks can increase your core temperature. You can also drink hot tea or hot water with lemon before bed to help warm up the body. Just make sure that your warm beverage is caffeine-free, otherwise you will have difficulty falling asleep.
Get Light In The Morning
You can sleep better when the body produces more melatonin, but more daylight is necessary for this to happen. Generally, melatonin gets secreted about an hour and a half to two hours before you go to sleep. Since the winter morning light is not as bright, daytime melatonin production may be suppressed. The typical big highs and lows of melatonin don’t happen during the winter, causing feelings of sluggishness or fatigue during the day or poor sleep at night. To counteract the season, go outdoors in the morning to get some sun exposure, provided that’s possible. If it’s too cold to sit outside and the sun is out, sit by the window for the first couple hours to increase more melatonin secretion later at night.