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World Sleep Day: Sleep Doctor Shares How Seasonal Changes Impact Your Sleep Patterns

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As the seasons change from winter to spring, many people experience noticeable shifts in their sleep patterns. This transition, marked by longer daylight hours, changing temperatures, and the advent of daylight saving time in many regions, can significantly impact our circadian rhythms and overall sleep quality. Understanding these changes and their potential effects can help individuals adjust and maintain good sleep health during this transition period.

In light of this, Oak Tree Mobility put together a comprehensive guide aimed at helping Brits navigate the sleep challenges posed by the change of seasons.

The impact of increased daylight

One of the most pronounced changes from winter to spring is the increase in daylight hours. Our circadian rhythms, which are internal clocks governing our sleep-wake cycle, are closely linked to the cycles of daylight and darkness. The additional light can disrupt our body’s natural sleep cycle as the days grow longer. Exposure to more evening light can delay the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for promoting sleep, making it harder to fall asleep at our usual time.

Temperature fluctuations

Spring also brings more variable temperatures, which can affect sleep quality. Our bodies rest better in cooler conditions, and the warmer temperatures of spring, especially abrupt changes, can make it difficult to sleep comfortably. People might find themselves waking up during the night or struggling to fall asleep as their bodies adjust to the new seasonal temperatures.

The start of daylight saving time

For regions that observe daylight saving time, the shift to spring means setting the clocks forward and losing an hour of sleep overnight. This sudden change can disrupt sleep patterns and decrease sleep quality, at least temporarily. The adjustment period can lead to feelings of tiredness or sleepiness during the day, impacting daily functioning and mood.

Allergies and sleep

Spring is also a peak season for allergies, thanks to the blooming of plants and the release of pollen. Symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and itchy eyes can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. For individuals with severe allergies, this can lead to significant sleep disruption and impact overall sleep quality.

How to adjust and improve sleep during the transition?

Despite these challenges, there are several strategies to help mitigate the impact of the season change on sleep:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help stabilize your circadian rhythm.

  • Create a comfortable sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains to block out extra evening light and maintain a cooler room temperature.

  • Limit exposure to screens before bedtime: The blue light from screens can interfere with melatonin production. Try to avoid electronic devices at least an hour before bed.

  • Spend time outdoors in natural light: Exposure to natural light during the day can help adjust your circadian rhythm to the changing season.

  • Be mindful of daylight saving time: Gradually adjust your sleep schedule a few days before the change by going to bed and waking up 15–20 minutes earlier each day.

The shift from winter to spring can disrupt our sleep patterns, but by understanding these changes and taking proactive steps, it’s possible to minimise their impact. Adapting our routines and environment to the season can help maintain good sleep health, ensuring we remain rested and energised as we welcome the warmer months.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert, comments, “Transitioning from winter to spring can subtly yet significantly disrupt our sleep patterns. As the days grow longer and the nights shorter, our internal biological clocks face a challenge in adapting to the change in natural light exposure. This shift can delay our body’s release of melatonin, the hormone that signals our brain that it’s time to sleep, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. To help counteract these effects, I recommend creating a sleep-friendly environment by maintaining a consistent bedtime, using blackout curtains to mimic a darker environment, and engaging in a relaxing pre-bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.”

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