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How Winter Affects Your Sleep

by Bill Welles

When the warm weather cools, many of us begin to idly burrow into a stage of hibernation until spring returns. While the cozy season won’t actually cause a three-month-long nap, the winter weather can certainly affect your slumber. Sleep patterns can be altered by many different factors in your body and everyday environment. As the days get shorter, the wind starts to whip, and the rain begins to freeze, our rest can be impacted in some unusual ways.

If you feel much groggier in the winter and bright-eyed in the summer, odds are, you’re not alone. Your body clock is regulated by your circadian rhythm, or in layman’s terms, the natural cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness, which is maintained by exposure to light. While it’s a good idea to get a healthy 8 hours of sleep year-round, you may find yourself in need of an extra hour or two than you did during the peak of summer. To help keep you feeling alert and refreshed, here are a few ways the winter season might be inhibiting your sleep.

Cooler Temperatures

It might seem like the natural solution to throw on a pile of cozy blankets at night, but dozing off in a cooler room will actually help you in the long run. It has to do with your body’s natural temperature cycles. As you sleep, your temperature drops and doesn’t begin to rise again until morning begins. This is why the air in your room can interfere with your sleep: if it’s too hot, it may affect the natural dip in your body’s temperature and make you more restless during the night. If you want to remain in a deep sleep, don’t you dare touch that thermostat!

A Drafty Bedroom

If you’re someone who loves to leave the window cracked to feel the fresh air and winter breeze enter your bedroom at night, this might be affecting your sleep. Although a crisp breeze might help soothe you to sleep, being in the pathway of cool-moving air can create a shift in your natural sleep patterns and cause your sleep to be shallow. This means the chill and dampness of a drafty room can alter your breathing and increase your heart rate, leading to restless sleep and waking up frequently in the middle of the night.

Less Light=Longer Sleep

Another downside of winter, apart from the cold, is of course the lack of sunlight as the days get shorter. You wake up for work and it’s dark and you head home from work and it’s dark—what’s the point of even getting out of bed? Odds are, you’ll start to feel sleepy right around 4 p.m., and we’re right there with you. Exposure to natural light, much like temperature, can also affect your body’s circadian rhythm. Dim lighting and darkness increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that stimulates tiredness, which is why we turn out all the lights before bed. However, experiencing this increase much earlier in the day can leave us all feeling a tad lethargic during the winter months.

Putting in Overtime

One aspect that most people might not consider is how winter truly affects your body. The truth is, the cold makes your body work harder. You’re putting in overtime during the winter months and you’re not being rewarded for all your extra hard work. When it comes to sleep, the effects of cold versus heat are drastically different. Hot and humid weather can cause you to wake up more frequently, struggle to find a deep sleep, and wake up feeling groggy.

However, you can sleep in colder conditions and wake up feeling perfectly refreshed and well-rested; it just puts a little extra strain on your body. It’s harder for your body to take in oxygen when it’s cold, and because of this, the chill of winter increases your heart rate and your blood pressure, especially amongst cold weather sleepers. So, you might not have to alternate which leg you kick out of the covers at night, but the frigid temperatures get your heart pumping, making it harder to drift into dreamland.

Stress Reducers

Summer is known to a relaxing time and the winter typically feels more stressful—or so you thought. The winter weather actually produces lower levels of sleep-disrupting stress hormones. Your stress hormones fluctuate throughout the day but should be the lowest at night. But the longer nights of winter mean your stress subsides much earlier in the day compared to the long days of summer. Feeling stressed at nighttime can interfere with our body’s natural sleep mechanisms, which is why getting in bed earlier during the winter can feel so snuggly and satisfying.

Who would have thought sleeping in a cold bedroom with just your nose poking out from underneath the blankets could be so appealing? Don’t overheat yourself with five layers of clothes and eight pairs of socks, embrace a little chilly weather and let the coolness of winter carry you into a peaceful slumber all season long.

Sleep is at the forefront of everything we do and everything we believe in. Stop by Mattress Land today to discover how much better your sleep can get, even during the frosty winter months. Our expert staff will be happy to answer any questions you might have along the way. Visit us today!