Understanding Healthy Sleep Habits during the Winter Months


From Piedmont Newnan Hospital

Now that we’re well into the time of year where the clocks reset, and the sun starts setting before we’ve even had a chance to eat dinner, many of us may still be struggling to adjust.

While we did get an extra hour of sleep that first night, time change tends to throw our sleep cycle off balance in a way we don’t really recover from. For some of us, it’s an excuse to go to bed as soon as it’s gets dark out, and while that seems like good way to make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night, it usually results in someone waking up around 2 or 3 in the morning, and then feeling tired anyway by the time it’s actually time to get up.

For others, it becomes harder to wind down at night, as they adjust to longer exposure to darkness, and their brains stop associating sun down with bedtime, and that’s if they aren’t already stepping up their caffeine intake to combat feeling tired earlier in the day. However, it is possible to adjust to this time of year without just winging it until Spring.

“Getting sunshine each day is key,” says Karen Hacker, M.D., who specializes in Family Medicine at Piedmont Physicians at White Oak. “Our bodies naturally produce more melatonin during colder months due to less daylight, but this is also being heightened by multiple factors.”

Whether you’re the kind of person who stays up later and sleeps past sunrise, or get up before sunrise and are falling asleep before it’s even gone down, you’re further minimizing your already limited exposure to daylight.

And on top of that, we all tend to spend less time outside, when a daily walk is more crucial than ever—and not just because we need the extra light exposure. After all, lack of exercise or decreased frequency of exercise is another factor that disrupts your circadian rhythm. If you stay inactive for long periods of time, your body’s energy levels will adjust, and you’ll have less energy overall.

Temperature and other environmental fluctuations can also impact your sleep. Overheating or underheating your house will make it harder to fall asleep, and even harder to stay asleep. While everyone’s preferences differ slightly, studies show the ideal temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees (which, in the Winter, is good news for your heat bill). But the brisk air is also much dryer, meaning you’ll likely feel discomfort in your throat, eyes, and nasal passageways, so a humidifier is also something to think about.

“These seasonal charges are nothing new,” adds Dr. Hacker. “Our bodies are designed to adapt to them, so it’s important to remember to work with ourselves, even when our pre-established habits push us to do the opposite.” of against ourselves.

For more specific medical advice, have a conversation with your physician. To set up an appointment or learn more on the topic of healthy sleep habits, visit piedmont.org.

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