Sleep Better Tonight! 5 Ways Seasonal Changes Affect our Sleep

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  1. S.A.D.


As Fall begins and Winter approaches, the days are growing shorter and we are exposed to less and less sunlight. Without sufficient sun exposure,  our serotonin levels can dip, which can increase risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that typically occurs each year during fall and winter. Less sunlight can also deplete our Vitamin D, which is needed for serotonin production. Serotonin helps maintain our sleep-wake cycle and levels of melatonin, so to make a long story short: get some sun and you’ll get some sleep!!


Another option for less winter “S.A.D.ness” could be to buy a lightbox! Lightboxes mimic outdoor light, which can create a chemical change in the brain to enhance mood! When looking for a lightbox, it should provide exposure to 10,000 lux of light. Try to find one that emits as little UV light as possible. Some typical recommendations for lightbox use are using it within the first hour of waking for about 20-30 minutes. It should be about 16-24 inches from your face. Your eyes should be open, but do not look directly into the light. When looking to buy a lightbox, make sure it is specifically designed to treat SAD.


2. Cooler Temperatures


One perk of the dip in the temperature though is that it helps us sleep better! Our bodies are naturally cooler when we sleep at night. The ideal temperature for falling asleep is between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit. Some tips to stay cool could be to use less bedding and wear breathable pajamas. Crack open a window and breathe in that fresh fall air as you drift to sleep!


3. Allergies

As seasons change, so do the allergens! When Fall comes around many of us wind up with stuffy sinuses and watery eyes, and we often turn to the nearest antihistamine for relief! What most people don’t know however, is that while antihistamines alleviate symptoms, they can actually cause more vivid dreams and even nightmares, which may disrupt our depth of sleep. Antihistamines can also induce sleep walking and parasomnias. While antihistamines cause drowsiness and often help people get to sleep, the quality of sleep is usually not as good. Some natural antihistamines you could try include nettle, quercetin, bromelain, and vitamin C.


4. Clock Changes

As the clocks roll forward and we lose an hour of sleep, it is important to prepare our bodies for the coming changes! Here are some tips so that when you lose an hour, you don’t lose your whole day:

  1. Get up early! A week before the time change, prepare your body by waking up a little earlier and going to sleep earlier. This will make the adjustment less difficult when it comes time to lose an hour!

  2. Don’t eat large meals before bed. This will spike your metabolism right before you try and fall asleep, making it much harder to get to sleep.

  3. Exercise outside! The sun exposure will provide Vitamin D and regulate serotonin levels, and exercising will help you fall asleep easier at the end of the day!



5. Phone Use

As the days darken and we spend less time outside in the sun, many of us turn to our technological devices for entertainment. Whether it be your phone, your TV, or any other device, you are exposed to blue light. This light may be good during the day to help us stay alert and focused, but at night it can pose a major risk to our quality of sleep. Even dim lights can throw off melatonin levels and our circadian rhythm. Some tips for dealing with blue light:

  1. Researchers recommend using dim red light at night, as this wavelength is less likely to interfere with melatonin levels.

  2. Put away your phone 2-3 hours before falling asleep.

  3. Try blue-blocker glasses, especially if you work night shifts.

  4. Expose yourself to bright light during the day. Try to get outside in the sun, and if you can’t, consider a lightbox as mentioned above!



PIM wants to hear from you! Do you have an experience with  sleep problems and seasonal changes? Do you find this article helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below!



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References:

Ramlakhan, Nerina. “How the Change in Seasons Affects Your Sleep.” Netdoctor, Netdoctor, 9 May 2018, www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/a27895/how-the-change-in-seasons-affects-your-sleep/.


“Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment: Choosing a Light Therapy Box.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Mar. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/art-20048298.


Nall, R. (2018). What Are the Benefits of Sunlight?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].


“Body Temperature and Sleep.” Tuck Sleep, 28 June 2017, www.tuck.com/thermoregulation/.


Benson, Dana. “Trouble Sleeping? Experts Say Skip Antihistamines.” Baylor College of Medicine, 7 Oct. 2013, www.bcm.edu/news/sleep-disorders/experts-warn-against-antihistmaines-sleep-aid.


Schaefer, A. (2018). The 4 Best Natural Antihistamines. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-antihistamines#3 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].

Harvard Health Publishing. “Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” Blue Light Has a Dark Side, Harvard Health, 13 Aug. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.