Hot chocolate, Netflix marathons, and warm duvets are just some of the finer comforts the cold weather brings. But a season linked to shorter days can influence how well you sleep. Here’s why cold weather makes it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings.
Limited sunlight in winter creates changes to your body’s melatonin levels and disrupts your circadian rhythm – your built-in body clock that regulates the time periods of sleepiness and wakefulness. Melatonin is the hormone that helps to control this rhythm, so when it changes, the body’s sleep pattern becomes confused. How? The amount of light directly impacts the pineal gland in the brain, which secretes melatonin, therefore less sunlight means the body produces more of the hormone, making the body feel more sleepy.
Light-reduced days can also increase feelings of depression – a condition associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or ‘winter depression’. “The symptoms of SAD present themselves as vegetative depressive symptoms with sufferers tending to become less active and sleep and eat more” says Sealy Sleep Expert and researcher at Central Queensland University, Professor Drew Dawson.
As our main source of Vitamin D is sunlight, lower levels of Vitamin D can also impact serotonin production – another hormone impacting our sleep-wake cycle, mood and appetite.
“It can be as easy as allowing more light into your house and getting regular exercise to help boost energy levels, burn excess calories, and most importantly, to promote sleep hygiene” adds Dawson.
Speaking of appetite, a hearty meal during those cold winter months may have a way of warming you from the inside out, but means the digestion has to work harder, which in turn keeps you up at night. According to the Sleep Institute, eating too many processed, highly refined foods can actually change the levels of leptin in your body, which can disrupt your sleep routine and cycle. Ideally aim to eat your last meal 3-4 hours before bedtime to allow full digestion of food.
Whilst it’s tempting to crank up the heating in the bedroom as the temperature plummets, the hot, dry air can have undesirable effects on sleep quality. Air that is too dry or too warm will dry out the mucus lining in the nasal passage, leaving you with a dry mouth and potential snoring, which can be the start of bad sleeping patterns. The perfect sleeping conditions require a cool, dark room that can allow the temperature to flow. Better still, using a humidifier or placing a large glass of water in the room will help to keep air moist.