As the clocks fall back, and the days get shorter, we often find ourselves sleeping for longer. This is due to having less light throughout the day, at a lower intensity. Having this limited light exposure can make us feel as if we are more tired and need more sleep, therefore you may find yourself falling asleep earlier in the evenings. This tendency to sleep for longer is intensified for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern1. So, what can you do to avoid feeling overtired or sleepy during the colder days, and how can you improve your sleep quality?

Tip one – sleep environment

Try to keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. By lowering the temperature of your thermostat just before bed, you are more likely to have a better quality of sleep. Take a step back from technology, and have less screen time before bed. By stepping away from your electronic devices for just 30 minutes before sleep, you will minimise the effects of blue-light on the brain. Blue-light at night time can trick the brain into thinking that it is daytime, and the body stops releasing the sleep hormone melatonin – which helps our body prepare for sleep2. By controlling light, temperature, and minimizing screen time, you can make a great impact on your overall sleep quality.

Tip two – get some fresh air and natural light

Getting some fresh air, alongside some natural light each day can help to maintain energy levels. Taking a short walk, a light jog, or even sitting outside with your morning hot drink can support your mental health – thus improving your sleep quality in the evenings. In the dark evenings at home, try to opt for warm, dim lightbulbs, avoiding any bright white or blue toned lights. This is especially important within the winter months, as you will have limited access to natural light in the evenings.

Tip three – diet

What we eat and drink at this time of year can often change too. Having a hot cup of tea or coffee before bed might seem like a comforting idea, but having caffeine before bed can be detrimental to your sleep. Opt for a decaf version, or a hot chocolate with a low sugar content. Sugary sweet treats, mince pies and cakes are often another temptation in the colder months, especially when it is leading up to Christmas. Having these close to bedtime can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, and then crash back down once you are asleep. This crash can cause your body to wake, or struggle to get to sleep in the first place. Try to avoid foods which have a high sugar content too close to bedtime.

Tip four – helpful herbs

Made from valerian, Kira Restful Sleep is a traditional herbal medicine (THR), used historically as an aid to a good night’s sleep, particularly if the cause of your occasional sleeplessness is mild anxiety. Use in conjunction with our top tips above, to help support your sleep quality.

Tips and key Takeaways for Winter Sleep Hygiene:

  • Exposing yourself to natural light, especially in the mornings.
  • Lower the room’s temperature before bed.
  • Minimize drinking caffeine and eating sugary foods before bed.
  • Invest in some helpful herbs, such valerian to support your overall sleep quality.

 

Sources

1 NHS

2 Sleep Foundation