How to protect your sleep as the seasons change

Image shows someone lying in bed on a pile of red and orange autumn leaves. Above their head is the night sky and a half moon.

Summer is over.

We have fully descended into autumn; cold weather, gloomy skies and dark evenings are once again a reality.

But as the seasons change, we are likely to experience more than just a drop in temperature.

‘A change in season can completely upset your sleep routine, but thankfully both the preparation and solutions are quite simple,’ says sleep expert Dave Gibson at Eve Sleep.

Here are some top tips on how to protect your sleep routine as the seasons change…

Adjust your bedtime 

Slowly move your bedtime before the clocks go back.

‘October 30 marks the end of daylight saving time,’ explains Dave. 

‘While the clocks going back essentially gives us an extra hour in bed, it can upset our circadian rhythm by making us feel sleepy sooner than usual as the sun goes down “earlier”.’

Dave suggests that combatting this is simple and recommends slowly altering your bedtime in increments in the three to four weeks leading up to the clocks going back.

‘This will allow your body to get used to your new sleep time gradually as opposed to changing it abruptly on the day and throwing out all your hard work on better sleep,’ he adds.

Create a good morning routine and avoid oversleeping

When the mornings are dark, it can be hard to get out of bed.

‘I cannot stress enough the importance of not oversleeping,’ says Dave. 

‘Doing so can cause you to feel lethargic the following day, meaning you might be tempted to take naps or go to bed earlier, with the latter having the ability to throw out your circadian rhythm.

Dave suggests creating an enjoyable morning routine to help get out of bed at a ‘reasonable’ time each morning.

‘It will make you want to be up and cracking on with your day,’ he adds.

‘Whether you want to start your day with a run, some light yoga, or even cooking yourself a deliciously healthy breakfast, make sure you are starting your day with something you really enjoy to make it worth getting out of bed on time for.’

Keep up with your exercise routine

Exercise can have a very positive impact on our sleep and can help us to drift off faster in the evenings.

‘So it is important to try and maintain our exercise routine when the seasons start to change,’ explains Dave.

‘Of course, when it’s cold and miserable outside, the appeal of getting out and exercising is little to non-existent, but it is essential to either continue your regular routine or join a gym and take your exercise indoors.’

Get plenty of daylight

Light is crucial.

‘Especially early morning light,’ notes Dave. 

‘The hazy and dim autumn days often blur day and night, and it’s the difference between the brightness of the day and the darkness of the evening light which strengthens our body clock. 

‘So ensuring that we get enough exposure to daylight during the autumn and winter months is important.’

As well as impacting sleep, the darker months can also increase symptoms of low mood and seasonal depression.

‘If this is something you suffer with, then I really recommend considering a SAD lamp,’ Dave recommends.

‘These lamps simulate sunlight, which can trigger the release of the happy hormone serotonin. Studies have also shown that prolonged exposure to SAD lamps can in fact strengthen your circadian rhythm too!’

Don’t ramp up your heating

As tempting as it might be, try not to turn the heating up too high.

‘The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 18°C, and sleeping in a room that is much hotter or colder than this can affect the natural drop in body temperature that happens when you go to sleep, causing you to have disrupted sleep,’ explains Dave.

‘So while you will most definitely need your heating on during the colder months, be sure to make sure it isn’t too high at the times you wish to sleep.’

Prepare your body 

‘With cold weather comes colds, flu and all the other seasonal lurgies that rob us of a decent night’s sleep,’ Dave adds.

‘This is where you need to act in advance before you get struck down with one of the dreaded winter illnesses.’

Make sure to wash your hands regularly, and if possible, try to avoid sharing cups and cutlery.

‘Also, make sure to keep a healthy diet,’ he adds. 

‘Eat all the colours of the rainbow, especially foods that contain Vitamin C (citrus fruits) and Zinc (nuts and seeds), which along with Vitamin D are great for the immune system.

‘If you do get poorly, then make sure you stock up on a good quality medicine that will reduce your symptoms enough to allow you to sleep through the night. 

‘One thing to watch out for when buying cold and flu medicines is the ingredients, as some formulas will contain stimulant ingredients that will keep you up at night, so avoid these where you can.’

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