Whether it’s fall, winter, spring or summer, discover how to get the best rest any time of year with these expert tips
With fall just around the corner, many Americans will be returning to their regularly scheduled routines, putting a busy – and hopefully happy – summer behind them. The arrival of a new season also means that everyone’s’ sleep habits will shift as well. While changes in light and temperature transition slowly, they impact how much and how well you sleep. Good quality sleep is always worth prioritizing for your health and well-being, so it’s important to be aware of seasonal transitions and how to navigate them.
What science says about sleep and seasonal changes
An area of research that definitely warrants further investigation, there are some exploratory studies that have questioned how seasonal changes affect sleep. A 2019 Japanese study set out to examine the changing seasons’ influence on sleep duration and sleep problems. The sleep patterns of almost 1,400 participants ages 15 to 89 were documented across all four seasons. Researchers found these people slept more in the winter and less in the summer. People in the middle and older age groups experienced the most significant changes, while younger and middle-aged groups were most affected by sleep problems, especially in spring and summer.
Dr. Funke Afolabi-Brown, attending physician with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a sleep medicine fellow at University of Pennsylvania, notes that temperatures fluctuations can significantly impact sleep. “Our circadian rhythm regulates our sleep cycles, which control several bodily functions, including our body temperature,” she says. “A drop in temperature occurs about two hours before we go to sleep, which is around the same time when melatonin secretion occurs. Our body cools down by sending heat away from our core. Heavy beddings tend to trap heat and affect our body’s ability to cool down.”
Adjusting to a new (sleep) season
Shifting your bedtime and modifying your sleep hygiene habits to coincide with seasonal changes are good insurance for getting better sleep throughout the year. As we know, small time shifts, even just a few hours, are enough to throw a wrench in your sleep-wake cycle, hence the dreaded jet lag experienced while traveling.
“As the seasons change, we may need to modify our routines,” Dr. Brown notes, “particularly when it gets dark earlier in the day. We should still aim for a consistent bedtime and wake time. It would help if you aimed for a routine consisting of two to three relaxing activities heading in the bedroom direction.”
She also recommends investing in black-out shades to help reduce outside excessive light and allocating enough time to wind down after a summer day. A warm bath as part of your routine is helpful to help you relax. Hint – a bath will also help your body cool down in time for bed. And avoid electronics close to bedtime as this disrupts melatonin production.
Ideally, you should also invest in bedding that will help regulate your temperature during sleep, not too hot or too cold. Try to choose sheets, pillowcases, blankets and duvets made of breathable and comfortable materials, like cotton or linen, which are conducive to sleep. Conversely, when a bedroom temperature is too cold, it will cause discomfort and affect the quality of your sleep. Most sleep experts peg the ideal bedroom temperature at 65 F (18C), but depending on your individual preferences, it may vary a degree or two.
Should you sleep with your windows open?
The answer isn’t straightforward at all, but Dr. Brown has weighed in with her take: “If you have windows open, you can enjoy a nice breeze, and it allows for fresh air to circulate your room, improving ventilation.” But there is a caveat, she adds. “If you live in a hot climate or have seasonal allergies, you may want to keep your windows closed and use a fan or air conditioning. Also, if you are in an area with a lot of noise, keeping the windows open can be distracting to your sleep.”
The bottom line: Do what works for you based on the advice provided above. Fresh, cool air is nice for sleeping, but it may not work for you based on existing health conditions and where you live.
How to get great sleep in any season
Whether it’s snowy, humid, hot or cool and crisp, they are a few evergreen rules of thumb for better quality sleep. And most of those guidelines revolve around your bedtime and sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene.
Dr. Brown shares her 8 must-dos for all seasons:
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Set a consistent bedtime and rise time.
- Use your bed for sleep (and the other “S” thing we do there). Avoid other activities like watching television, surfing the net and eating in bed.
- Practice a regular wind-down routine to help your mind and body prepare for sleep.
- Sleep in a bedroom that’s cool, dark and free of noise.
- Limit caffeine after 1 pm since it will linger in your system and may disrupt your rest.
- Avoid heavy meals around bedtime and keep late-night snacks light.
- And finally, see your healthcare provider if you are concerned about having a sleep disorder.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
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