Did you realize that the change of seasons can affect your sleep cycles?
You may have noticed a difference in winter, with shorter days and darker skies. When we move through spring and into summer more daylight keeps us more active.
Whether you find yourself a bright-eyed morning person or a hardcore night owl, it’s best to stick to a routine that aligns you with circadian rhythm. With a change of seasons, your sleep can be affected if you don’t make small adjustments to stay in sync.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways your sleep habits can be affected by a change of seasons.
Daylight Savings Time
Setting your clock an hour ahead in spring is the most obvious change that can affect your sleep patterns.
It seems like just when you get used to the hour change, it’s time to set the clocks back again in fall!
One way to avoid having too much shock from the time change is to gradually adjust your bedtime by about 15 minutes each night. Try this for 1–2 weeks prior or immediately following the time change. You’ll find it easier to stay well rested during the time change and throughout the shift between seasons.
Of course, a regular sleep pattern is ideal for your circadian rhythm. Depending on where you live, the days may be drastically different in length from winter to summer.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule regardless of sunrise and sunset times. As I mentioned in One Simple Shift for Better Sleep Tonight, sleeping by 10 p.m. is ideal no matter the season.
If you’re far enough north that the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. in summertime, you might have to make extra adjustments.
Buy yourself a sleep mask or light-blocking curtains and stick to your routine. It’ll be worth it for your health, especially when fall and winter roll around again.
Winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Did you know that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be brought on by low vitamin D levels?
When the days are short and gray, we often don’t get as much vitamin D as we need. This important vitamin is essential to our sleep cycles (among many other things), and a lack of it can disrupt our serotonin and melatonin levels.
Chronically low vitamin D can lead to SAD as well as several diseases. So while it’s tempting to tuck in and hibernate for the winter, it can actually cause sleep disturbances.
Monitoring and maintaining your vitamin D levels is essential for your best sleep, especially in the dark of winter.
Other Seasonal Factors
Seasonal changes can bring about allergies, which sometimes affect sleep cycles. Try to change your pillowcase often and use a nasal irrigation system (neti pot) to keep things clean.
- Fluctuating Temps
Temperature changes can also disrupt your circadian rhythm with season changes. With warmer-weather temps, your sleep may be less restful.
Our bodies have an easier time sleeping in cooler air, so that’s partly why winter makes you want to hibernate. You may find that you sleep better in spring/summer with a fan on or a window open.
- Seasonal Exercise
We may find it easier to exercise in the warmer months when the weather is nice. Don’t skimp during cold weather, though! You need to move energy (prana) through the body every morning.
Keeping a continuous activity level throughout winter helps to keep your sleep cycle consistent. It also helps you stay in the habit for those fluctuating days of semi-spring!
Artificial Light and Sleep Patterns
Did you know that at one time, people didn’t sleep in one 8-hour shift?
If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night, you might be glad to know that it isn’t such a bad thing.
Past sleep studies have shown that before the introduction of artificial light, it was a common thing for people to sleep in two short shifts. The “first sleep” and “second sleep” were typically around 4 hours long each, with a one- to two-hour break in between.
People would get up and do light activities, such as meditation, during the break.
According to BBC, historical records indicate that sleep patterns started to change around the end of the 17th century. Artificial lighting allowed businesses to stay open later and people to do regular daytime tasks at night.
By the 1920s, the concept of two separate sleeps each night was entirely phased out and largely forgotten. In modern times, most probably don’t even know it ever existed.
In fact, we’ve taken artificial light to a whole new level, with the screens and smartphones of today. The blue light of electronics can cause a host of problems, including disrupting your circadian rhythm.
To keep your sleep cycles as close to nature as possible, avoid the screen glow for an hour or two prior to bedtime.
Also, cut down on all artificial lighting from clocks and other sources in your bedroom.
You’ll find that you sleep more soundly—and if you do wake up, don’t stress. Think of it as a break while you await your second sleep.
Make Sleep Notes
If you’re not sure about your sleep habits and what would work best for you, run some experiments and keep a sleep journal.
Even better, there are sleep apps that monitor your sleep, letting you know how long and deep it was. Some can even tell you whether you snored and for how long!
You can make notes on your daily activity and notice how your sleep is affected by certain factors. Experiment in areas that aren’t supporting consistent sleep patterns. Take note of where you are out of sync with the Ayurvedic clock, which correlates with your natural circadian rhythm.
Monitoring your patterns will help you stay in your routine during each change of seasons.
Great Sleep Regardless of the Change of Seasons
With each change of seasons comes a host of differences, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sleep.
Monitoring your circadian rhythm and keeping a consistent routine will help you sleep well all year long.