You may have noticed that the changing of seasons can also bring on changes to your sleep pattern. As we transition from Summer to Fall, so do our habits. We trade long days for shorter days. Hot and humid weather for cooler weather. All of these changes can impact your sleep, for better or worse. Knowing how to adjust can be key in maintaining good, quality sleep.
Exposure to Sunlight
As the days get shorter, we are exposed to less sunlight during the Fall season. Since our main source of vitamin D is from the sun, this often means that we don’t get as much vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for sleep regulation due to its role in serotonin production. Vitamin D activates genes that release neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. These hormones affect brain function and development. Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked with depression, which is often associated with insomnia and other sleep disorders.
What to do: Try to get some exposure to sunshine in the morning by opening curtains or walking outside, if possible. According to the Vitamin D Council, the amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends on:
- The time of day – your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
- Where you live – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight all year round.
- The color of your skin – pale skins make vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
- The amount of skin you expose – the more skin your expose the more vitamin D your body will produce.
Even though it is tempting to cuddle up and sleep by the fire, you’ll sleep better if you leave the heat turned down. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep—and the proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this. If your room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier to shut your eyes for the night.
What to do: Save some money on your heating bill and keep your thermostat between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, daily exercise can actually help you sleep better. Our bodies were made to move and in today’s world of high-tech, computer-based jobs, it is important that we give our body the activity it needs. A research study published in 2010 looked at the relationship between sleep and exercise. The researchers randomly assigned people who had been diagnosed with insomnia to one of two groups: remain inactive or begin a moderate endurance exercise program. The results of the study showed that the exercise group slept about one hour longer than the inactive group. The exercise group also woke up less during the night and felt lower levels of sleepiness.
What to do: Ideally, you want to get the recommended amount of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training exercise each week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise in addition to muscle-strength training exercises on at least 2 days of the week. Remember, something is better than nothing. If you aren’t able to meet the CDC recommendations, start by taking a walk at lunch and continue improving from there.