As we slowly descend into autumn/winter, we will likely experience more changes than just a drop in temperature. A change in season can potentially upset your sleep routine completely, but thankfully both the preparation and solutions are quite simple.
Sleep expert Dave Gibson at eve Sleep is here to share his top tips on protecting your sleep routine as the seasons change.
Adjust your bedtime slowly before the clocks go back
The 30th October marks the end of daylight saving time, and whilst the clocks going back essentially gives us an extra hour in bed, it can upset our circadian rhythm by making us feel sleepy sooner than usual as the sun goes down ‘earlier’.
Combatting this is simple, slowly but surely alter your bedtime in increments in the 3-4 weeks leading up to the clocks returning. This will allow your body to gradually get used to your new sleep time instead of changing it abruptly during the day and throwing out all your hard work for better sleep.
Create a good morning routine and avoid oversleeping
When the mornings are dark, it can be easy to want to stay in bed, but I cannot stress enough the importance of not oversleeping. Doing so can cause you to feel lethargic the following day, meaning you might be tempted to take naps or go to bed earlier, with the latter having the ability to throw out your circadian rhythm.
One way to reasonably get yourself out of bed is to create an enjoyable morning routine that will make you want to be up and cracking on with your day. Whether you want to start your day with a run, some light yoga, or even cooking yourself a deliciously healthy breakfast, make sure you are starting your day with something you enjoy to make it worth getting out of bed on time.
Keep up with your exercise routine
For those who like to incorporate exercise into your day, we are already very aware of its positive impact on your sleep, so it is important to try and maintain our exercise routine when the seasons change.
Of course, when it’s cold and miserable outside, the appeal of getting out and exercising is little to non-existent. Still, it is essential to either continue your routine or join a gym and take your exercise indoors. Sustaining your exercise routine will ensure you reap the benefits and drift off to sleep easily in the evenings.
Get plenty of daylight
Light is important, especially early morning light. The hazy and dim autumn days often blur day and night, and it’s the difference between the brightness of the day and the darkness of the evening light which strengthens our body clock. So ensuring that we get enough exposure to daylight during the autumn and winter months is important.
Low mood or seasonal depression can be common during the colder, darker months, and this is often linked to the lack of daylight. If this is something you suffer with, then I recommend considering a SAD lamp.
These lamps simulate sunlight, which can trigger the release of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Studies have also shown that prolonged exposure to SAD lamps can in fact strengthen your circadian rhythm too!
Don’t ramp up your heating
As temperatures drop it is tempting to ramp up the heating in your home, because who enjoys being cold? However, increasing the temperature too much could affect your ability to get a good kip.
The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 18°C and sleeping in a room that is much hotter or colder than this can affect the natural drop in body temperature that happens when you go to sleep, causing you to have disrupted sleep.
So while you will most definitely need your heating on during the colder months, ensure it isn’t too high when you wish to sleep.
Keep your air moist
During the winter months, the air can get dry, which for many, can cause skin irritation and even irritate your nose and throat. The irritation from the exposure to dry air can make you itchy and very uncomfortable, which is guaranteed to disrupt your sleep.
Like all of these tips, the solution is simple. I would recommend investing in a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air, which will help you combat any dry air-related irritation and make sleeping much easier.
However, if you take this tip onboard, ensure you regularly clean your humidifier as mould and mildew can build up in the system if it is not maintained, which can cause additional health issues!
Prepare your body to beat the seasonal lurgies
With cold weather comes colds, flu and all the other seasonal lurgies rob us of a decent night’s sleep. This is where you need to act in advance before you get struck down with one of the dreaded winter illnesses.
Do what you can to prevent it by washing your hands regularly, not sharing cups and cutlery and most importantly, keeping a healthy diet – avoiding starchy comfort food, which we tend to increase consumption of in the winter. Eat all the colours of the rainbow, especially foods that contain vitamin C ( Citrus fruits) and Zinc ( nuts and seeds), which along with vitamin D are great for the immune system.
If you do get poorly, then make sure you stock up on a good quality medicine that will reduce your symptoms enough to allow you to sleep through the night. One thing to watch out for when buying cold and flu medicines is the ingredients as some formulas will contain stimulant ingredients that will keep you up at night, so avoid these where you can.