Seasonal Changes and Your Sleep

Seasonal Changes and Your Sleep

Even though Louisiana doesn’t get months of frigid temperatures, snow and ice like its northern neighbors, there are still significant changes that occur as fall ends and winter begins. Perhaps the biggest difference is the noticeably shorter days and chilly mornings and evenings. Did you know that these seasonal changes can affect your mental and physical health?

Adults of all ages can experience sleep disruptions and changes to the effectiveness of nighttime sleep during the winter months, but adults over the age of 65 can find it even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Here’s what you need to know so that you can create a routine that helps you get your zzzzz’s.

The Power of Daylight

Sleep disturbances begin in the winter season due to the lack of daylight. It’s natural for our bodies and brains to want to retreat inside and rest. However, this rest and retreat tendency can lead to feeling sluggish, napping during the day, and a confused wake/sleep cycle. Less daylight also means less Vitamin D and melatonin production, key ingredients to maximizing sleep, energy and physical and mental health.

Less daylight can also be a trigger for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or seasonal depression. One main symptom of seasonal depression is the onset of insomnia or other sleep disruptions. 

Getting Better Sleep No Matter the Season

There are ways you can improve your sleep even in the midst of the challenging winter season. Here are our favorite tips.

Get more exercise.

Falling into bed and sleeping well is easier in the summertime because we are often more tired from the day’s activities. In the summer months, we are typically up earlier and are busy walking with friends, visiting the farmer’s market, or grabbing dinner with friends al fresco. On the other hand, the winter’s cold weather and dark evenings often lead us to the couch more often throughout the day. At night, when we head to bed, our bodies are simply not tired yet as they haven’t been active enough during the day. To remedy this, make it a point to move your body throughout the days during the winter months. If it is too dark for your evening walk, consider taking a fitness class at the senior center instead. Or, if you live in a retirement community, stay active by getting involved in any of the programs and events offered there.

Expose yourself to daylight as early as possible.

Do your best to greet the daylight as early in your day as possible. This exposure will cue your body that it is the morning and time to start the day. You can use artificial light for this, but good old-fashioned sunlight is best. Try opening your curtains while you brew your coffee or even stepping out onto the porch before you sit down with your cup of tea.

Skip afternoon napping.

It’s easy to snooze while watching your favorite television show on a cold afternoon. However, all this extra sleep can lead to problems falling asleep at nighttime. If you’re feeling tired, try getting up and walking around the house or starting a busy activity that will kickstart your brain and body instead.

Stick with a consistent bedtime routine.

Finally, just as your body benefits from cues in the morning, it also benefits from cues at nighttime. A consistent bedtime routine signals to your body that it is time to wind down and fall asleep. Your routine doesn’t need to be intricate to work, it just needs to be consistent each night, including the time you head to the bedroom. Try dimming the lights 30 minutes before bed, putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth and putting on lotion, and then reading in bed for a few chapters. If you do the same routine consistently, you’ll find yourself feeling tired and ready to sleep when it’s time.

Wishing you many nights of good sleep this winter!

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