You would think that winter would be the best season for sleep. After all, the cold season is associated with cozy environments (think warm blankets and soothing cups of hot tea), extra hours of darkness, and a serene sense of quiet. But for many people, winter can be one of the trickiest seasons for sleep. Winter’s short and darker days tend to disrupt our body’s circadian rhythm, the internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Factor in the added stress of the holidays and sleep can seem impossible to come by this time of the year.
8 Ways to Sleep Better During the Winter
The good news is that there are tons of little things you can do this winter to get your best sleep yet. Ahead, check out eight simple ways you can revolutionize your winter snooze and start your day off on a well-rested note.
Curl up with a weighted blanket
Is holiday stress already starting to creep up on you? Wrapping yourself in a cozy weighted blanket is a great way to keep warm in the winter while lowering your stress levels before bed. Often touted for their calming and sleep-inducing abilities, these heavy blankets are typically filled with plastic pellets or glass beads to apply soothing pressure to the body to encourage rest and relaxation. To support a good night’s rest, consider winding down with your weighted blanket before bedtime or sleep with it all night long to help reduce tossing and turning.
Get sunlight in the morning
Strange as it may seem, getting sunlight in the morning can actually help you sleep more soundly at night. That’s because our day-night cycles are heavily influenced by light. Morning sunlight exposure pushes your sleep schedule earlier, helping to normalize your circadian rhythm.
When you wake up in the morning, open up the blinds and try to get as much sunlight as possible. If you leave for work well before the sun begins to rise, consider taking a walk on your lunch break.
Turn down the thermostat
We all love being warm and cozy in the wintertime, but when it comes to your sleep quality, a warm bedroom can be too much of a good thing. In winter, many people crank up their thermostats during the day and forget to lower them at night. Not only does this lead to a high heating bill, but it can also disrupt your precious snooze. To avoid sleep disturbances, sleep experts generally recommend keeping your thermostat between 60 to 67 degrees.
Block out artificial light at night
Darkness may be prevalent in wintertime, but artificial lighting at night can still interfere with your sleep. Whether it’s coming from outdoor street lights, your bedroom or your neighbor’s window, even small amounts of intense lighting can mess up your body’s production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). You can block out unwanted light by installing blackout curtains and blinds in your bedroom. Another option is to wear a weighted sleep mask to bed. In addition to creating a pitch-black environment, these calming sleep masks are designed to provide a soothing pressure that can help you wind down and relax. (Added bonus: They’re ideal for travel, too.)
Humidify your bedroom
Low humidity levels in the home can be another sneaky cause of troubled winter sleep. When the mercury starts to drop, the indoor air becomes drier because cold air holds less moisture than warm air. That lack of moisture can lead to a slew of sleep-wrecking side effects, including nosebleeds, nasal congestion, runny nose, dry skin and irritation.
Fortunately, there is a simple fix: get a humidifier for your bedroom. These devices put moisture back into the air, making it easier to breathe and, thus, get a good night’s rest. As an added bonus, humidifiers also reduce your susceptibility to viruses and bacteria and ease symptoms caused by the flu or the common cold.
Eat a lighter dinner
Cold weather is a prime time for pot pies, casseroles, lasagnas and other delicious comfort foods. But the effect that these comfort foods have on your body and sleep quality probably aren’t as comforting as you think. Comfort foods are often loaded with fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can interfere with your body’s digestion process and ruin your sleep. To rest easier this winter, try eating lighter meals at dinnertime and saving your heavier meals for lunch. Better yet, save the traditional comfort foods for special occasions and reach for healthier alternatives to your wintertime favorites.
Resist the urge to sleep more than usual
Many people, especially people in snowy states, tend to feel sleepier in the winter. But contrary to popular belief, humans don’t actually need more sleep in the wintertime. In fact, getting too much sleep can make you feel even more sluggish and tired throughout the day. To avoid feeling tired and groggy, aim for your regular amount of sleep and stick to a consistent schedule. Still having trouble waking up on winter mornings? If possible, try to accommodate your body’s sleep needs by starting your day a little later.
Talk to your doctor about vitamin D
You probably knew that vitamin D was important for your overall health, but did you know that it can affect your sleep quality, too? Vitamin D plays a role in the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), which may explain why vitamin D deficiencies are associated with a significantly higher risk of sleep disorders.
Our vitamin D levels tend to take a nosedive during the fall and winter due to the lack of sunlight. If you’re not getting great sleep in the cold season, consider talking with your doctor about vitamin D supplements.
Getting Back to Great Sleep
It’s not just you. Research suggests that getting high-quality snooze in the winter is harder for many of us. Fortunately, there are many tried-and-true winter sleep hacks that can help you wake up feeling refreshed and restored. Incorporate these tips and tricks into your daily routine and you can start getting the restful slumber you need this season and beyond.
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