Winter’s colder temperatures and longer nights may seem like a great opportunity to get more sleep. However, for some people, these seasonal changes can interfere with the ability to get a good night’s rest.
How winter affects your sleep
It’s natural for our sleep habits to change as seasons change, sleep experts say. In fact, a recent AASM survey found that 34% of adults report sleeping more in the winter.
It might surprise you to learn that, in the U.S., the earliest sunsets happen before winter even begins. For those who live in the northern part of the U.S., the earliest sunsets happen around December 7. In Maine, the sun dips below the horizon before 4 PM!
Fewer hours of daylight can affect your sleep. It’s a good idea to expose yourself to light in the morning so you don’t throw off your body’s natural rhythm.
When the days become shorter, you may feel like you need more sleep. However, your actual sleep needs don’t change in the winter. If you’re sleeping longer than usual or napping during the day, it can be harder to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Keep a consistent sleep schedule during the winter.
Winter sleep tips
In addition to darker, shorter days, the stress and disrupted schedules of the holiday season can contribute to poor sleep in the winter.
Follow these tips to get healthy sleep this winter and beyond:
- Set a bedtime that allows enough sleep, using the AASM online bedtime calculator, which determines a customized bedtime based on age and wake time needed. The AASM recommends that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night.
- Avoid binging on entertainment activities before bed, especially those involving screens or electronics. Too much exposure to light at night can disrupt the timing of the sleep cycle.
- Don’t have caffeine after lunch and avoid alcohol near bedtime, as both can disrupt sleep.
- Practice rituals that help you relax before bed, such as taking a warm bath, drinking tea, journaling, or meditating.
- Create a comfortable bedroom environment. Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool — it should remind you of a cave.
Adjusting your daily behaviors and routines can affect your sleep. If you find that you continue to experience poor sleep during the winter, talk to your health care provider.