The winter season can be full of fun. Some of us like to take it as an opportunity to cozy up indoors with a warm blanket and a good book, a hot mug of tea nearby. Others are flying through the trails on cross-country skis.
But with the shifting seasons, we might not realize how winter changes our sleeping patterns. Our biological clocks take important cues from the world around us. So when that world starts to change with the seasons, our natural rhythms can become confused.
Here are three common sleep-related issues that are faced in the winter, and ways to combat them:
Even when it’s freezing outdoors, circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster explains that the best sleeping condition is slightly cool. Not too cold, not too hot. So, when you’re tempted to crank the heat in your house or apartment up to 80 degrees, think again. It might just be causing you a restless night of tossing and turning in bed. Research suggests that the ideal thermostat setting for a comfortable sleeping condition is 65 degrees.
The hours of sunlight dwindle in the winter. This is due to the slight tilt of the Earth as it makes its way around the sun. Our bodies, ideally, take cues from the environment about when it’s time to sleep.
But, our bodies can get confused from artificial lights. In the winter months, we may be more likely to overcompensate for lost daylight by turning on extra lights in the home, or spending more time indoors with our brightly lit televisions, computers, and gadgets.
Try to put away your phone or tablet at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Dim the lights in the bathroom as you brush your teeth before you lay down. Try not to expose yourself too much light before you’re ready to hit the hay. This will help your brain recognize that it’s time to rest!
Yes, we know it can be hard to put on your boots and get out the door when there’s a blizzard out there. But the National Sleep Foundation found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week provided more than a 60 percent improvement in sleep quality.
And, because sleep is so important for us to stay alert and focused, getting more sleep means you may perform better in school or at your job, feel more alert, and suffer less from daytime drowsiness. Just remember to dress in layers and be safe!
If you’re having sleep problems this winter, it could be related to the weather. But sleep issues can also be symptomatic of other health concerns. Talk to your primary care provider about how much sleep your getting, the quality of your sleep, and how you are feeling. A physician can help you find the best treatment option, whether it is sleep medication, further testing, or a change in diet and lifestyle modification.
If you don’t have a primary care provider or it’s been a while since you’ve had a physical exam, or if you just want to discuss your sleep issues with a provider, call 844.411.8747 to make an appointment with a physician near you.