Tips for Better Sleep During Winter
Sleep is essential to your daily routine; you spend roughly one-third of your time doing it. Quality sleep and obtaining enough of it at the right times are just as important to survival as food and water. You might also have noticed that our sleep hours vary in winter. To understand the link between sleep and winter, we first need to learn what quality sleep is and how it works. Keep reading to discover the importance of quality sleep and tips for better sleep during winter.
Why Do You Need Quality Sleep?
Sleep is necessary for the formation and maintenance of neural connections in the brain that facilitate learning and memory formation. It also makes it more difficult to focus and react rapidly. In the long run, sleepless nights can lead to insomnia (sleep disorder).
Sleep is crucial for many brain functions, including how nerve cells communicate with one another. In reality, your brain and body are incredibly busy while sleeping. Recent research suggests that sleep acts as a housekeeper, removing toxins from your brain that accumulate while you are awake.
Sleep influences practically every tissue and system in the body, including the brain, heart, and lungs, as well as metabolism, immunological function, mood, and disease resistance. According to research, prolonged sleep deprivation, or poor sleep quality, increases the risk of illnesses such as high BP, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
According to a 2019 study conducted by the US-based firm Fitbit across 18 countries, Indians rank as the second-most sleep-deprived population globally. On average, individuals in India reported sleeping for seven hours and one minute per night. The study reveals that the Japanese, with an average nightly sleep duration of six hours and 47 minutes, hold the top position as the most sleep-deprived population.
This information indicates that both Indian and Japanese populations are not getting adequate sleep compared to other countries included in the study. Sleep deprivation can have various negative consequences on physical and mental health leading to impaired cognitive function, mood disturbances, weak immune system, and increased risk of chronic illness such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
What exactly drives our need for sleep?
Sleep is a vital process our body needs to rest and recharge. There are two main types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has three stages:
1. Stage 1 is when you are just drifting off; your heartbeat and breathing slow down, and your muscles start to relax.
2. Stage 2 is a bit deeper, where your body temperature drops and your brain waves slow down even more.
3. Stage 3 is the deepest sleep, crucial for feeling refreshed in the morning.
REM sleep, which appears about 90 minutes after falling asleep, is when you dream the most. During REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly, and your breathing and heart rate increase. Your body also becomes temporarily paralyzed, preventing you from acting out your dreams.
Two main biological mechanisms regulate our sleep: circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis.
i. Circadian rhythms are like our internal clock, telling us when to feel sleepy at night and when to wake up in the morning. They are influenced by light and control things like body temperature and hormone release (melatonin).
ii. Sleep-wake homeostasis keeps track of how much sleep we need and gets stronger the longer we are awake, making us sleepier over time. Factors like medical conditions, stress, and exposure to light can all affect these mechanisms and impact our sleep quality.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Your need for sleep changes as you age, but this varies significantly across individuals of the same age. No magic "number of sleep hours" works for everybody of the same age.
Recommended Hours of Sleep
Understating Winter Sleep Disruption
Less exposure to sunlight causes an increase in melatonin, a sleep hormone made in the body that regulates sleep-wake cycles." With the earlier production of melatonin during winter, "it would be natural to assume that a healthy person also would need more sleep during the winter.
6 Tips for Better Sleep During Winter
1. Get Enough Daylight: Our bodies have a built-in clock called the circadian rhythm that directs us when it is time to sleep and wake up. This clock relies on light and darkness. When it's bright outside, our brain thinks it's daytime and signals us to wake up. But when it's dark, our brain thinks it's nighttime, making us feel sleepy. So, try to get plenty of daylight, especially in the winter when sunlight is limited. It helps keep our sleep cycle on track and boosts our mood.
2. Keep Light in Your Room Low: Bright lights in your bedroom can interfere with your body's production of melatonin. Keep your bedroom dark at night to promote better sleep. Consider using blackout curtains to block out streetlights, and avoid using screens before bed as they emit blue ray light, which can suppress melatonin production.
3. Have a Lighter Meal at Night: Eating a heavy meal close to bedtime can intrupt your sleep as your body takes time to digest the food. Opt for lighter snacks in the evening and avoid caffeine and heavy, spicy foods that can cause heartburn or digestive issues.
4. Invest in Quality Bedding: During cold winter nights, staying warm and sleeping well is important. Investing in thick, warm blankets and quilts can help keep you cozy. Look for high-quality bedding that will provide enough warmth to keep you comfortable throughout the night.
5. Maintain Body Temperature: While it's tempting to crank up the heat to stay warm, it's important to keep your body temperature regulated for better sleep. Everyone has their own temperature preference for sleep, so find what works best for you. Being too hot or too cold can disrupt your sleep, so aim for a comfortable temperature in your bedroom.
6. Stay Active: Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, even during winter. Exercise helps you fall asleep faster and reduces sleep disturbances, so prioritize better sleep during the winter.
The Bottom Line
Getting a decent slumber is just as important as diet and exercise. When you get enough sleep, your body and mind work better. You might feel tired during the day if you don't sleep enough. Consider natural remedies if you experience insomnia. Winter can make sleeping hard, especially if you don't have warm bedding. So, investing in a comfy mattress and cozy bedding is a good idea. That way, you will sleep better every night, even in the cold weather. Follow these tips for better sleep during winter.
"A well-spent day brings a happy sleep!"