How do seasons affect your sleep patterns?
You might have a vague idea about this already, but seasons can influence your sleep patterns. You might find the quality of sleep you have and how rested you feel fluctuates throughout the year. This is due to a number of factors, but they all revolve around the seasons.
As a human race, we do not hibernate or migrate, but we are mammals, and we’re affected by the seasons like any other mammal.
But we’re a smart species, and that means we have some control over our natural surroundings. We don’t have to be a victim to the natural world. When it comes to the seasons and sleep, we can do things to help the influence the former has on the latter.
Seasonal changes and sleep
Our sleeping patterns align with the cycle that is day and night. Scientists and professionals recommend you find a regular and consistent sleeping pattern to assist you in refueling your energy levels. This should change when the seasons do. We must be aware that changes in the season have a large impact on our sleeping patterns, affect our energy levels, and change our overall sleep experience.
For example, studies have shown that during the summer that melatonin, the sleep hormone, is released earlier than it is in the winter, which may mean you want to go to bed earlier, and wake up when the sun comes up. This is because increased light exposure – known as the photo-period – means our bodies fatigue at an earlier time than they would in the winter. This adjusts the body’s natural response and impacts our internal biological body clock to make sure we rise at what would have been a vital time of day when we were evolving.
As we approach the winter months and the nights get colder and darker, the lack of sunlight depletes vitamin D levels. Because this vitamin is vital for maintaining the sleep-wake cycle and melatonin levels, a lack of it can make you really tired.
But it isn’t all bad news. Because temperature has a massive impact on the quality of your sleep, the cooler air in winter will help you sleep better. Cold air helps to establish the circadian rhythm. Isn’t mother nature wonderful?
What is a circadian rhythm?
Your circadian rhythm is a clever little tool your body uses in order to make sure you have enough energy to live day to day. They are part of the body’s internal clock, and help you carry out important functions. It’s the part of you that tells you instinctively when it’s time to do something, like go to sleep or wake up.
Your circadian rhythm is influenced by environmental cues, especially light. When it’s dark outside, your body wants to go to sleep. When it’s light, your body tells you to wake up. This is part of the reason we need to close our curtains if we want to sleep in the daytime. It doesn’t come naturally to us to do that.
That’s why we feel more tired in winter. When it’s dark outside, our body tells us we need to go to sleep.
Your circadian rhythm has an impact on your physical and mental health, so it’s important you let it do what it needs to do as much as possible.
The temperature of seasons shouldn’t be underestimated
The weather in our country is not as extreme as it is elsewhere, but it still shouldn’t be underestimated, especially if our days are particularly hot or cold.
As the temperature changes over the year, it’s important you try to keep the temperature of the room you are sleeping in consistent. As the body prepares itself for sleep, your body starts to feel drowsy, and your internal body temperature falls slightly. It remains low until you wake.
Studies show that the temperature in your room should be around sixty or seventy degrees fahrenheit for optimal sleep. You can achieve this in winter by leaving your heater on or adding more blankets. Summer can be difficult, as not many of us have aircon, but a mattress made from breathable materials might help.
Seasonal sleep tips
Improve your energy levels
Improving your energy levels overall will help you sleep. That sounds like such a silly thing to say, but it’s really important. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you need to take some real time to work out why that is and make steps to change it. Once you’re in a really strong sleep routine, you’ll find it easier and easier to sleep, because your body knows when to expect it’s time to sleep.
If your environment is uncomfortable, this might be impacting you, so look to change aspects of your bedroom that keep you awake. Your mattress might be one of them.
Change your diet
Certain foods and drinks consumed at certain times of day can badly impact your sleep. We know you might feel like that hot cup of tea before bed in the winter months, but go for decaffeination if you can, as this can be detrimental to your sleep.
In the winter, look for foods rich in vitamin D. These will boost your energy levels in the absence of sun.
Take care about lighting
The removal of blue light found in laptops and on phone screens stops your body from becoming confused by the presence of light at a time in which there shouldn’t be any around. You can download apps and extensions to help with this.
Take careful care of the lights you’re using in your home, too. Opt for dim light bulbs without blue light. This is especially important in the winter months, because you’ll be bathed in unnatural light longer. Your body knows it is winter, and this can confuse your circadian rhythm.