If you’re like us, you love watching the seasons change.
You can’t wait for sweater weather and hot cocoa on snowy nights — and you take full advantage of the great outdoors when summer hits.
But if you struggle with sleep, these seasonal shifts have a hidden downside: they cause your sleep patterns to shift too.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to ride the wave of the seasons and keep your sleep consistent. Read on to find out what they are.
3 Ways You Can Beat the Seasons at Their Own Game
Every time the season changes, 3 things change with it: daylight length, night temperatures and allergen types.
Each of these things has a direct impact on the quantity and quality of sleep that you get — so you’re likely to notice that your level of restedness changes as the seasons change.
Fortunately, once you understand these shifts, you’ll be prepared to anticipate and plan for them, so your sleep stays consistent through the seasons.
Let’s dive in:
1. Beat the Living Daylights out of Daylight
Recent studies show that shifts in daylight hours during the year can impact sleep.
Day length (referred to by scientists as the “photoperiod”) is a crucial ingredient of great sleep because it directly impacts your body’s circadian rhythm.
If you live at a higher latitude, you’ll experience a significant change in daylight hours across the seasons, which means your body’s rhythm will change significantly throughout the year. This can create an almost jetlag-like experience, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep at a consistent time year-round.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to sidestep light-based disruptions. Here are a few tips for dealing with light changes:
Invest in quality blackout curtains. These special curtains block as much natural light as possible from your bedroom. Keeping your room dark through all seasons will help your body cope in the summer months.
Get outside early and often. This is especially helpful in the winter. Your body needs sunlight to recalibrate its sleep cycle. Exposing yourself to sunlight, even briefly, is beneficial.
Exercise. Regular exercise is so important to healthy sleep habits. It’s common to exercise more in the summer months, but holiday eating and dreary days make exercise extra important in the winter. Physical exertion will help prime your body for sleep — so make time for it.
2. Tell the Temperature to Freeze
With seasonal changes come temperature changes.
The ideal room temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit — and keeping your room around this temperature all year will virtually guarantee better sleep.
Unfortunately, during the summer months, you’ll likely battle with keeping your bedroom cool enough to sleep — and in the winter, the reverse is true.
Lots of seasonal temperature changes where you live? Here are some tips for optimizing the air in your bedroom:
Use artificial heating and cooling mechanisms, like an AC or heater. Depending on the season, it’s wise to use one or the other to keep your bedroom at the optimal temperature.
Invest in a humidifier. Whether you’re running the AC in summer or the furnace in winter, you’re likely drying out the air in your room — which isn’t good for your sinuses, and will disrupt your sleep. A humidifier will keep your nasal passages from drying out and allow you to breathe better as you sleep.
Change your bedding. This seems straightforward but is easy to overlook. Blankets and sheets made from natural fibers (like cotton or wool) breathe more easily, which means you’re better able to regulate your body temperature — and that translates to better sleep.
3. Wave Adios to Allergies
With seasonal changes often come dreadedseasonal allergies.
Whatever the season, there’s always an allergen to contend with — from grass pollens in the summer, to weed pollens or mold pollens in the fall and winter.
Allergies cause all kinds of upper respiratory problems, impairing your ability to breathe easily at night. And when you’re not breathing properly, you can’t get the deep REM sleep that you need to feel refreshed and rested.
That’s why knowing which allergens you’re likely to face in each season, and planning accordingly, can be a lifesaver for your sleep.
Here’s how to deal with allergies in each season:
Talk to your doctor. There are so many allergy medications available — how do you know which is best? Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decode the labels and pick the best option for you.
Stay hydrated. Hydration is key to helping your body ward off attacks of any kind, especially from allergens.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Allergens cause inflammation in your nasal passageways. Combat this by eating anti-inflammatory foods like broccoli, fatty fish or green tea. Turmeric powder is also a great anti-inflammatory spice. It’s available in a wide variety of teas and capsules.
Check for mold. If you live in a wet climate, be on the lookout for mold. Make sure to check often-overlooked places like closets and basements. Mold can spread quickly and cause a great deal of damage, not only to your health but also to your property.
Ride the Seasonal Wave
To set yourself up for your best year of sleep yet, all you’ve got to do is protect against inconsistent sunlight exposure, fluctuating room temperatures and allergens.
Now that you know the three crucial seasonal shifts you need to control for in order to keep your sleep consistent, you’re prepared to face the changing seasons — without losing sleep.
(1) Friborg, Oddgeir et al.“Associations between seasonal variations in day length (photoperiod), sleep timing, sleep quality and mood: a comparison between Ghana (5°) and Norway (69°)." Wiley Online Library, 10 Nov. 2011, www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2011.00982.x
(2) “How to sleep better in winter." Kaiser Permanente, www.wa-health.kaiserpermanente.org/winter-sleep-tips/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.
(3) Atherton, Matt. “Sleep: FOUR ways to get a better night’s sleep in winter - and why you may be struggling.” Express, 9 Mar. 2018, www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/928601/sleep-how-to-get-to-insomnia-better-night-winter
(4) Patterson, Amber MD. "Seasonal Allergies: A Month-by-Month Guide." Blanchard Valley Health System, www.bvhealthsystem.org/expert-health-articles/seasonal-allergies-a-month-by-month-guide. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.
Changing seasons may be pretty but may also hurt your sleep. 🍂🌱
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