Winter Sleep Blues

Trouble sleeping recently?

You’re not alone. Some studies have shown you are most likely to struggle with sleep in the month of February. Here are some of the reasons that likely contribute to insomnia this time of year, and what you can do about it:

Decreased Sunlight Hours

Shorter days and colder temperatures usually means less exposure to sunlight. This can disrupt circadian rhythms. Try to open curtains and blinds immediately in the morning. Ideally, take a walk or sit outside in the morning for 15-30 minutes to increase your sun exposure early in the day. If sunlight is lacking, you can try using a high-intensity 10,000lux lamp in your home, which can help stimulate melatonin production in the evening.

Running Your Heater More

Turning up your thermostat can cause nighttime temperatures to be too warm. Try turning the heat down an hour or two before bed. Ideal sleep temperatures are between 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. A lower body temperature at bedtime can also help to trigger sleep signals.

Dry Winter Air

Cold temperatures typically mean lower humidity. The dry air can irritate the membranes of nasal passages, mouth, and throat, and make you more prone to snoring, which affects sleep quality. Try using a humidifier in your bedroom.

And More…

There are likely a number of other contributing factors of worsening insomnia at this time of year, including decreased exercise in the winter, illness from cold and flu season, and seasonal changes in mood and anxiety.

The Power of Sleep Hygiene

Regardless of time of year, good sleep hygiene alone can improve sleep. Here are some tips:

Routine – Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. Avoid long naps or naps late in the day.

Movement – Get plenty of physical activity during the day, but avoid high intensity exercise close to bedtime.

Mindful eating and drinking – limit caffeine to morning and early afternoon, avoid large meals or alcohol close to bedtime.

Restful space – Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, and free of reminders of work or other things that cause you stress.

Turn off worries – Try to solve problems before you go to bed, or set a reminder to continue to work on projects the next day.

Increase your melatonin naturally – close curtains and turn down the lights for 2-3 hours before bedtime. Consider a hot shower or bath an hour before bedtime – this will lower your body temperature afterward, a trigger for your brain that it is time for sleep. Avoid screens at bedtime – if you read before bed, e-readers or blue light filters might help.

Relax – find a low energy activity to help you wind down for sleep. Reading or meditation can be very effective.

Forget about the time – Try to keep alarm clocks, watches, or smartphones out of your line of sight. Checking the time in the middle of the night can make you feel more awake, and can make it hard to fall back asleep.

Still hard to catch your ZZZs?

There are many factors that affect sleep, including both medical and mental health conditions. Some mental health conditions that affect sleep include seasonal affective disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD. An estimated 10-15% of adults also struggle with chronic insomnia without a separate underlying cause. Reach out to us at Psyche if you are struggling, and we can assess and treat your insomnia. Let us help you catch your ZZZs!

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