As the mercury drops and days get shorter, all we want to do is snuggle in bed and sleep for longer. While the long winter nights may seem ideal to catch up on sleep, many people complain of issues in falling and staying asleep at this time of the year. This led us to dig a little into sleep science, an emerging area of research. Here’s what we found on how cold weather can affect our sleep:
- It Can Disrupt the Circadian Rhythm
Longer nights and shorter days mean lesser sunlight and extended hours of darkness. This can alter the production of sleep-related hormones in the body. These include melatonin, cortisol, and serotonin. Changes in these hormone levels can affect your energy levels, making you feel lethargic and sleepy. But, this is not all that long, cold nights do to our bodies and sleeping patterns.
Hormonal changes and longer sleep hours disrupt your circadian rhythm, which can also negatively impact your mood and behavior. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during winter, which often makes them want to sleep more and thus further exacerbates the issues with the circadian rhythm.
The best way to avoid this problem is to stick to your usual sleep schedule. Just make sure you’re getting adequate sleep each night. Moreover, make sure you’re getting enough light exposure every day, especially in the morning, to keep your hormones balanced and regulate your mood and energy.
- Heating Can Dry Out the Mucous Linings
Blasting the heat can be vital for surviving through the winter season, especially for those living in very cold climates; however, cranking up the heat can make sleeping peacefully at night difficult. Heat dries out the air, which effects the mucosal linings. Simply put, the hot, dry, indoor air can dry out your throat and nose, causing you to wake up multiple times during the night.
To avoid this problem, keep the indoor temperature between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night, as this is considered the optimal temperature for sleeping peacefully. Alternatively, use a humidifier to maintain moisture indoors.
- Cold Weather Can Impair the Immune System
Cold and flu viruses are rampant during colder months, and most of us (if not all) get affected by them at least once every winter season. Multiple factors can make you fall prey to these viruses, but when you do catch them, your sleep quality is severely compromised due to the host of uncomfortable symptoms they cause. The clogged nose, throbbing headache, and coughing fits can all keep you up at night or make you wake up frequently.
While there is no foolproof way to avoid catching these viruses, you can reduce your chances of falling sick during cold weather by taking measures to strengthen your immune system. Improve your diet – make sure you’re taking plenty of antioxidants and drinking an adequate amount of water – and get enough sunlight to make sure your vitamin D level doesn’t drop too low. These are some of the measures that can help keep your immune system well-functioning.
The Sum Up
Snuggle up in a comfortable, cozy bed and sleep peacefully is what we all want to do on cold winter nights. Make sure you take appropriate measures to continue enjoying good sleep throughout the winter season.