Winter is here again, and with it, those dreary days and overwhelming urges to nap — or at least find the nearest cup of coffee.
This winter, don’t give in to the desire to sleep the day away. Learn why your body is worn out during the cold months and understand how you can prevent it. Here’s how to get more sleep:
1. Less Sunlight
The days are noticeably shorter, and the nights are longer during this time of year. Often, you wake in the dark, making it difficult to truly get up. Because our bodies depend on sunlight to set our circadian rhythm and determine when we should sleep and wake, winter is an especially tricky time.
During the day, the brain inhibits melatonin production, helping you stay awake and focused. Take advantage of the reduced levels of sunshine during the winter. Open your blinds immediately upon awakening, or go outside for a walk during lunch. Even if it’s a cloudy day, you can still benefit.
2. The Impulse To Rest
You’ll feel tired because winter puts your circadian rhythm out of whack, prompting you to sleep more. Sleeping too much can leave you feeling groggy, especially if you’ve already hit your required seven or more hours of sleep for the night.
When you nap, take care not to rest longer than 20 minutes or do so after 3 p.m. Napping longer or later can interfere with your natural sleep cycle. Also, consider creating a restful environment to sleep, including picking out comfortable pillows that match your sleeping position. Before you lay down to nap, ensure you’re aware of your body to limit any muscle tension or strain.
3. Heavier Meals
If you find yourself sleeping more in the winter, heavier meals might be to blame. Researchers found that during the holiday months, Americans can gain 5 pounds on average. If the weight gain itself isn’t alarming enough, there is a correlation between the bigger meals we eat during the holidays and disrupted sleep.
Foods that are higher in fat or sugar tend to impact our sleep patterns the most. High levels of alcohol can also disrupt sleep, causing you to feel tired throughout the day. During the holidays, try limiting your portion size and alcohol intake. If you know you’re going to have a big meal later, try to plan for it earlier in the day.
4. Holiday Stress
While the holidays can add a lot of fun to the mundane, they can also add a great deal of stress. This can be a significant sleep disrupter, keeping you up into the early hours of the night with racing thoughts of all the tasks you need to accomplish the coming day. After a few nights like this, you could find yourself experiencing symptoms like sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Try managing your stress before bed through mediation and mindfulness techniques like focused breathing, the body scan and guided imagery. Reading a book or listening to music could also help you relax and get comfortable before sleeping.
5. Bad Weather And Less Exercise
The winter months might prove a challenge if you like to exercise outdoors. It may not be easy to get outside to walk, run or bike as you usually would due to shorter days and worsening weather. Exercising less is proven to give you reduced energy throughout the day.
The best way to counteract this effect is to set up an exercise routine and stick to it. Try exercising for 20 minutes right away after waking up. If you’d rather not go out in the nasty weather, consider getting a gym membership for the winter, or find an exercise video on YouTube. Keep your habit going until it becomes a routine.
6. Bedroom Temperature
People tend to turn up their thermostats when it’s cold. Often, a warmer bedroom harms your quality of sleep. The ideal temperature to which you should set your thermostat is 65 F because your circadian rhythm shifts during a 24-hour cycle. At night, your body begins to shed warmth and continues cooling until 5 a.m.
If you don’t want to have disrupted sleep due to your circadian rhythm, it’s best to keep your bedroom temperature lower — at least between 60 and 67 F.
Get Enough Sleep This Winter
Now that you understand why your body is more tired during the winter, you’ll be prepared to better care for yourself. Start planning your exercise routine, lower your bedroom temperature and commit to healthy portion control during holiday meals. Doing these things will ensure you get enough sleep this season.