Have you ever noticed that you seem to need less sleep in the summer and wake up feeling more rested and ready to hit the ground running? There is a scientific reason as to why we sleep differently from one season to the next.
Medical studies show our bodies want more sleep during the shorter days of winter. When it’s time to sleep, the body produces melatonin, which makes you sleepy. However, shorter days make that process start earlier in the day. At the same time, it is harder to get quality sleep in the winter.
Lack of sleep negatively impacts your health in several ways, potentially leading to weight gain and overall fatigue. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure you rest well, no matter what the season is.
Get Some Sunlight
Research shows a lack of Vitamin D leads to lower serotonin production, which in turn impacts sleep/wake cycles. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are associated with a lack of D3. About a billion people around the world need more Vitamin D. Depending upon how fair-skinned you are, just 10 or 15 minutes of sunlight each day improves Vitamin D levels. Take a short walk at lunch or sit near a window at work.
Sleep in a Cool Room
The best temperatures for resting are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower or higher and you may not rest fully. Cool ambient air helps support your body as you move into deep, restoring sleep. In the heat of summer, however, it might be difficult to reach those temperatures. Taking a warm bath an hour before bed is one way to allow your body to begin the cooling-down process that prepares it for sleep.
Drown out Storms
Seasonal storms and changing barometric pressure may wake you or prevent you from falling asleep. Part of the issue is fear of natural disasters such as flooding, lightning strikes or tornadoes. If you know a storm is coming, go ahead and put in some ear plugs or add some white noise to drown out the sounds and allow restful sleep.
Black out Light
Even though you may feel more rested in summer, if you have a job that requires you to wake up very early, you may struggle to get in a full eight hours of sleep. The sun doesn’t set until well into the evening during the peak of summer, making it difficult to fall asleep because your bedroom is still bright. One solution is to add blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask. This allows you to simulate nighttime, even if it is earlier in the evening when you go to bed.
Adjust for Daylight-Saving Time
Spring brings a turning forward of the clocks, which means you lose one hour of sleep on Sunday morning. As your body adjusts to this change, you may feel particularly sleepy. Until the longer daylight hours catch up, your body feels out of sync. Eventually, your body will get used to the change, but each person adjusts at a different pace.
As the seasons change, different plants bloom or shed, which creates allergy concerns for many people. It’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep if your nose is stuffy or you’re suffering from drainage every time you try to sleep. Some simple solutions are taking non-drowsy allergy medication or trying natural solutions such as adding local honey to your diet. In situations where your allergies are impacting your health, you may need to see an allergist and get shots to combat the issue.
No matter what the change, it can impact the overall quality of your sleep. The best way to combat changes is to set a schedule for sleeping and stick to it even on the weekends. While it’s tempting to stay up late and sleep in on days off, your body will get out of sync and you’ll have to reset it every week. Instead, stick to a schedule. Your body will thank you and your sleep will improve.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.