With the shorter days and longer nights it appears we could go into hibernation. That’s not always a good idea.
Melatonin produced by the pituitary gland regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Lack of light causes it to produce more melatonin making us feel tired and sluggish.
Also, the lack of light during the winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder – SAD. If you think your depression increases during the winter months, it might be worth speaking to your GP. You could also consider investing in a Full Spectrum White Light panel. You only need to use it for a short time in the morning for it to be effective.
Medical advice is that the best ambient temperature for sleeping is 18°. I know that that is far too low for me and I’m sure that applies to others to. One of the joys of having a heating system controlled via an app is that I can boost the heating for one hour when I’m going to sleep.
I set the normal daytime temperature at 22° I increase that by just 1° for an hour and that makes a big difference for me. There is no way I can go to sleep if I am too cold. That is not just about having winter weight pyjamas or making sure I have enough covers on my bed. It’s also about the temperature of the room.
I certainly don’t enjoy the longer nights and shorter days, I’m much more reluctant to go out on dark evenings than on nice summer ones.
Whilst I’m fairly certain I don’t have SAD I know that I always want to sleep longer in the winter.
When the air is too cold that also negatively affects melatonin production, causing it to disrupt our sleep cycles. However, if the air is too dry or too warm, that can dry out the body’s mucus membranes make us more susceptible to colds and flu.
The other reason that our sleep patterns may alter is that our diet differs in the winter from the summer. Christmas and New Year means lots of sugary, fat laden and high calorie foods. These foods impact the body, causing a hormone called leptin to increase. This can also disrupt sleep cycles.
What happens then is that we can crave those leptin increasing food, sometimes not knowing when we are full. If we continue to eat like this, it effects sleep and we continue the vicious circle.
So how long should we be sleeping?
I know I can easily sleep for 10 hours at night and when I was really ill sometime back, I often slept for 12 hours. Now I try to aim for eight hours because any less that and I really feel sleep deprived. I know many people who can survive on much less but most don‘t have disabilities!
Research has suggested that people who are sleep deprived gain weight. Because of the impact sleep has on glucose levels and regulating sugar, several studies have found that not having enough sleep could be a precursor to diabetes. There are also studies which show that not getting enough sleep can reduce life expectancy.
Good sleep habits to adopt:
1. Try to stick to a routine
2. Make sure your room is the right temperature for you
3. Try to turn off tablets and phones an hour before bedtime
4. Do something different to relax before sleeping
5. Get some natural daylight exposure every day or use a SAD light panel
6. Try not to eat for 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
Sleep well everyone.