Tis the season for comfort and joy, although many Americans aren’t finding that when they sleep. As we get closer to winter and the sun starts going down earlier and earlier, your body’s natural sleep cycle gets thrown out of whack. These seasonal effects on sleep can cause issues for months.
Nearly half of all adults report sleeping up to two extra hours each night during the winter. This period of sleep disturbance that happens in the fall and winter is better known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that can cause hypersomnia, which is just a fancy way of saying you get really tired and sleepy throughout the day. Whereas hypersomnia can be attributed to a host of causes – narcolepsy, sleep apnea, drug or alcohol abuse – it can also come for just a few months a year, right around the holidays.
Scientists believe that seasonal light variation contributes to the shift in our circadian rhythm. The fall and winter onset of SAD can cause food cravings, oversleeping, tiredness and weight gain. General SAD symptoms include irritability, hypersomnolence, delayed sleep time, anxiety, and withdrawal.
We all know that it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning when you’re warm and cozy. This is especially true when the weather outside is, well, frightful. Unfortunately, the more time you spend in bed, the groggier you may feel during the day, particularly if you’re already getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
How to Handle Seasonal Effects on Sleep
It sounds counterintuitive, but increased sleepiness can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night, especially if you spend too much time napping during the day. A 30-minute nap can restore your energy, but anything longer can deplete it, while also disrupting your sleep later that night.
A few things to help you handle Seasonal Affective Disorder:
- Expose your body to natural light, especially in the morning, or using light therapy
- Lower the thermostat temperature before bed (you actually sleep better when it’s colder)
- Take a warm bath two hours before sleep
- Minimize alcohol consumption and smoking
Light and temperature are two of the greatest contributing external factors to our circadian rhythm and our sleep quality. Seasonality affects how we sleep, but it doesn’t appear to affect us all in the same way. It is important to take into account factors such as age, gender, and family history when assessing the role of seasonality in sleep disturbances.
Getting the Best Sleep Possible
If you’re getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and still feel groggy throughout the day, you should see your doctor to make sure it isn’t anything more serious than Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even if it is SAD, your doctor might prescribe medicine to help you sleep, but never take more than the recommended dosage.
Getting your best night’s sleep also means making sure you’re sleeping on a mattress and pillow that won’t keep you awake at night. If you’re not getting good rest, it will definitely compound the severity of the seasonal effects on sleep.
The sleep experts at Mattress Warehouse can help find the perfect mattress and pillow just for you. With bedMATCH®, the patented diagnostic sleep system, you can use actual science to pick out the perfect fit. Visit a store today to help put Seasonal Affective Disorder to bed.