A little about light
As we go into winter, the days get shorter and the night's get longer. You'd think you'd then want to sleep a lot more or at least find it easier to, but this is not always the case. Morning light stimulates our bodies to feel awake and artificial light does the same thing. This is a problem because, in winter, we tend to come home to a gloomy house, so we set all the lights ablaze and keep it that way until bedtime. There's just no tapering off!
Also, the link between sleep and light isn’t just psychological. Melatonin, the hormone that tells you when it's time to go to sleep, is stimulated from early evening onwards by the gradual dimming of daylight. If there's no fading of the light, this affects our body's ability to synthesise it.
The solution: It’s crucial to become more aware of how light can affect your sleep pattern. Make a point of turning off the main lights around you and turning on a few lamps before bedtime. Also, if you have a dimmer switch, be sure to use it. Next, ban all electronics from your bedroom. Even the light from a digital alarm clock should be turned away from you. Your body needs to learn that dimming means drowsiness and darkness means sleep.
Turn down the heat
Winter sees us stocking up on warm, fluffy PJs and piling on the blankets. Then, if we've got heaters, we crank them up to the max. While it’s important to feel cozy, know that overdoing it can end up affecting your sleep.
When you fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop a few degrees below it's normal "wakeful" temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. Researchers believe that this subtle temperature dip allows your body to divert some of the energy it uses to maintain your waking temperature to better power the important reparative tasks it performs at night. Alas, if you’re bundled up in too many layers or have a heater set to blast, you’re not going to experience the slight temperature drop that signals sleep.
The solution: You need to find the right balance. Temperatures over 24 degrees can cause restlessness, but a cold room will make it difficult to drop off. So, don’t go overboard with the blankets. Rather use only what you need to feel comfortable as opposed to toasty. Also, don’t discount the magical power of socks! Heating up your feet causes vasodilation (the opening of your veins). Research has shown that the more vasodilation in your feet, the less time it takes to fall asleep.
Not so sweet dreams
Bye bye summer salad, hello sticky toffee pudding! While many people think it’s winter’s cooler temperatures that cause a yearning for all things stodgy and sweet but it’s actually the lack of sunlight. You need sun exposure to naturally manufacture vitamin D that, in turn, boosts your serotonin levels. If your vitamin D levels are low, this means low serotonin, and that’s a major driving force behind carb and sugar cravings.
Alas, giving in to a binge is the fast track to sugar spikes that lead to a “crash and burn” and, ultimately, insulin resistance. This is when your body ignores this hormone’s important instruction - to transfer the sugar in your blood into your cells where it can be used as fuel. Instead, it lingers to create high blood sugar before converting into fat.
But let’s get back to sleep. Studies have found that those who eat sugar are a lot more likely to experience a sleep pattern disrupted by arousals – little intrusions that don’t actually wake you up but pull you from the deep sleep your body needs to a lighter, much less restorative sleep stage. The result is that you wake up, having slept through the night, but can't understand why you still feel tired. The solution: This one’s easy to say, but often hard to do – “say no to sugar”. At the end of the day, sugar, no matter how delicious, is bad for us. It ages us, it causes disease and even interferes with our sleep. Going on a low GI (glycaemic index) is one of the best things you can do for your health. Also, if you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, consider embarking on our Renewal Institute Diet (the RID). Our most successful diet to date, it’s a low GI eating plan enhanced by supplements and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) injections. It’ll stabilise your sugar levels, and women could lose between 5 and 6 kilograms a month while men could lose up to 8!
The bottom line
Winter might be synonymous with hibernation, but not everyone’s guaranteed a good night’s sleep. If you find you’re struggling to nod off or still wake up feeling tired, try and implement our change of season sleep solutions and see if they improve your pillow time. If not, make an appointment with one of our doctors at Sleep Renewal. Together, we can help you get more of the restorative sleep you need to wake up feeling great, regardless of the season.