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How do different seasons affect your sleep?

25.11.2019

Did you notice that different times of the year, or certain weather patterns, influence how you feel and how well you sleep?

Although many aspects of achieving good sleep are under our control, one often neglected factor is the external environment. Changes in temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity and rainfall affect us in many ways, both positive and negative.

When it comes to sleep, understanding the impact of the weather can be helpful to prepare in advance for the conditions.

Winter is a particularly important season in this regard. While cooler, drier air brings some benefits, the atmosphere and changes in solar cycles can play a significant role in the quality of sleep. Changes in spring, summer and autumn also affect us in different ways.

Read this article to see how weather affects your sleeping habits and what you can do to get a better rest.

Shorter days can affect the biochemistry of your body

As the days get shorter in the fall and winter, we see less and less sunlight. This is especially true when you wake up before sunrise or leave work when it's already dark outside.

Vitamin D is important for the production of serotonin, and serotonin is important for many functions, including our sleep and wake cycles. Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which means that when we do not have sunlight, we are lacking it. Studies show that lack of sunlight can increase the feeling of depression and fatigue and increase the desire for carbohydrates as serotonin levels are affected.

Lower levels of Vitamin D are associated with more daytime sleepiness and changes in light-dark cycles can also affect when your body releases melatonin, making them feel tired sooner or later than usual.

If you work indoors, take a few minutes to relax in the sun whenever possible. Studies show that light skinned people need nine minutes, medium skin 16 minutes, and dark skin 38 minutes to absorb 2000 IU of vitamin D at 25% exposed skin.

If you can't go outside regularly, work near a window. In one study, office workers sitting by windows get more exposure to white light and also sleep better than those who don't have windows nearby.

The effects of winter can also be more serious. A condition called seasonal affective disorder occurs when the symptoms of depression become clinical and show clear fluctuations between autumn/winter and spring/summer. Studies have also linked this disorder to reduced sleep efficiency and less slow-wave sleep. It is more commonly diagnosed in women and northern latitudes and treated with white light therapy and pharmaceuticals.

The cooler air helps you sleep better

Temperature plays an important role in the onset of sleep and biological rhythms. As your body prepares to fall asleep, your internal temperature drops slightly and remains low until several hours before waking time. The temperature inside also lowers around noon, which also makes you feel drowsy.

Studies say that cooler ambient air supports the natural process of deep sleep in the body. The ideal room temperature for rest is between 16-21 degrees, depending on personal preferences, clothes and linen. Cooler temperatures are much easier to reach during the winter months, thanks to the cooler air outside.

You can multiply this drop in temperature by taking a warm bath one to two hours before going to bed and removing a few extra layers of clothing.

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The hot, humid air makes the conditions more difficult to fall asleep

While cooler temperatures make sleep more comfortable, hot and humid atmospheric air in the summer can do just the opposite. The feeling of heat and sweating is not only physically uncomfortable, but it can prevent your body from going into deep sleep and releasing good hormones during the deeper stages of rest.

In addition to air conditioning, using ceiling fans and opening windows at night can help cool your room.

Also, do not eat before bedtime as digestion slightly raises your body temperature.The use of light sheets and linen made from natural fabrics can also help with air circulation.

Storms disturb your sleep

Gentle raining provides a soothing effect of white noise at night, but huge storms can wake you up or make it difficult to fall asleep. Thunderstorms and bad weather can also create a lot of anxiety.

White noise applications and eye masks can help, as well as various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided meditation.

Sleep apnea, a condition characterized by impaired breathing during sleep, can also be affected from rough weather to some extent. Research has found that the severity of symptoms increases with lower atmospheric pressure. The links between thunderstorms and asthma have also been documented, possibly due to an increase in pollen in the air.

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Changes over time can be painful

Changes in pressure, temperature, and humidity can affect pain levels for those with joint and nerve problems.

For example, colder weather and high blood pressure appear to be associated with increased arthritis pain, according to a study, and higher humidity also plays a role. On the other hand, low pressure, extreme temperatures and humidity are associated with increased migraines in more sensitive people.

Researchers are not entirely sure why people experience more pain during certain weather conditions, but many studies have shown that pain affects sleep. Some common pain medicines contain caffeine and other stimulants that also affect the quality of sleep.

Certain seasons carry allergies and diseases

Each season brings new allergens, from pollen and grass pollen in spring and summer to autumn ragweed and even greater indoor exposure to dust mites in winter. As if a stuffy nose, itchy eyes and irritation of the sinuses are not enough to keep you up at night, antihistamines can also affect rest. Although antihistamines tend to cause initial drowsiness, they can actually impair the overall quality of sleep and make parasomnias more likely.

In the winter we also see an increase in colds and flu, the side effects of which can also make sleep restless. Increased body temperature, increased snoring and coughing can make sleep more restless. For example, cough syrups with alcohol can disrupt deep sleep cycles.

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