With cold air surging across the country and snow lingering in some provinces from several winter storms, the winter season is in full force and for a while yet! One thing that South Africa doesn’t have to worry about when the seasons change is moving their clocks. But although there isn’t a drastic change in our daylight, our bodies are still rather sensitive to the changes of the seasons.
Kick out the winter chill and getting enough sunlight can have an effect on your sleep this winter.
In many ways, when we start going into winter, our bodies are changing and becoming more sensitive to weather, with the cold weather having an effect on the kind of sleep that you will be having. Winter is starting to draw nearer and as the days draw colder and shorter, your sleep can be affected. It might seem like there are only very slight changes to the weather but the slightest of changes can have a bigger impact on your sleep than you would expect. While the general amount of sleep that you should have every night is around 8 hours, this is a number that varies from person to person, especially in the winter months.
Change of seasons has the following effects:
Even in South Africa, the daylight reduces once we get deeper into the winter months. The changes are nowhere as drastic as in the Northern European countries, they are certainly noticeable. Light is very important for your sleep. In order for you to have good quality sleep, you need to get enough sunlight during the day. The daylight has a direct effect on the amount of melatonin that your body produces.
Melatonin is the hormone that is responsible for regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycle. When your body is not getting enough light during the day, you are more than likely going to start feeling more sluggish and tired earlier on in the day. So when the days are shorter, and you are not spending as much time outdoors, the season can feel like a very long and tiresome one.
There is another way that the winter months can have an effect on your health and on your sleep. There are those who suffer from what is known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a rather apt acronym considering how this condition can make you feel. This condition is the result of not getting enough sunlight and it can cause a person to feel bouts of depression during winter. South Africans are not free from this disorder, and although our daylight in winter is only reduced by around 3 hours, when the body has become used to the long summer days, not getting enough sunlight on your skin can still have an effect on your sleep.
The air gets colder
While we enjoy mild winters, the days can get very cold in parts of the country. Unlike other countries where homes and businesses are set up in such a way that they are temperature self-regulating, we don’t have these kinds of set ups so in the colder areas we rely more on fireplaces, heaters and heavy blankets to keep warm in the winter months.
Most South Africans living in cold areas rely on fireplaces
Temperature can have a very direct effect on your sleep and it needs to be well regulated. If your home is too hot, you might find that you are not going to be sleeping very well. In general, you are more likely to sleep well when your room is a little bit cooler. Regulating temperature using fireplaces and heaters can be very tricky. Too much heat or cold can drastically affect the quality of your sleep. If the air is too warm, your body can become very much susceptible to the winter illnesses. But when the room you are sleeping in is too cold, you might find that you are unable to sleep.
So in winter, it is best to delicately balance out the temperature in your home, finding that happy medium that helps you to get that good quality sleep you need.
Changes in your diet
In winter you are more likely to eat heavier foods, carbohydrate-rich foods that are hearty and warm. While this comfort food might be very much what you are craving, it is not always the kind of food that is going to be right for your sleep needs.
When you eat rich foods, filled with fats, you might not slip off into a comfortable sleep. This very rich food can also have an effect on your hormones with the hormone leptin being changed. Once this hormone has been affected, changes in your sleep are sure to follow. Leptin helps with the regulation of hunger, basically, it is the hunger hormone. When your body is producing too much of this hormone there is also the risk of gaining weight.
How can you keep your sleep in check during winter?
Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean that your sleep has to suffer. There are a few things that you can do that you might find very helpful.
- Eat light
Sure your body is craving all kinds of delicious treats to keep warm during the winter, but if you want to limit the possibility of sleep disruption then you need to limit the size of your meals. Eat lighter meals, earlier in the evening and you are unlikely to suffer from the consequences of bad winter sleep.
Getting enough sunlight is very important for your sleep, and in winter when the days are shorter, getting enough light can be even more crucial for your sleep
- Don’t oversleep
Catching a few extra hours when the mornings are dark can be very tempting, but you should really try to rather not oversleep. When you sleep in on the weekends, you can end up damaging your sleep cycle, reducing the quality of your sleep. The result of sleeping in is usually drowsiness and feeling way more tired than you did before you went to bed.
- Get enough exercise
With the days being shorter and colder, being outdoors and getting enough exercise can be the last thing that is on your mind. Getting outdoors and exercising will also help you to get enough sunlight which will greatly aid your sleep later on.
- Don’t worry about losing sleep
If you worry constantly about losing an hour of sleep, you will feel very tired in the morning. The more you worry about not sleeping, the less likely you are to actually be relaxed enough to sleep.
As the season’s change and the days begin to get a little cooler all throughout the country, your sleep will continue to be a priority for you. Makes sure that you get the most out of your winter by making the right decisions for your sleep.