This Is Why You Want to Sleep More in Winter
If you're having more trouble than usual getting out of bed this winter (it can't just be us), there is a range of science-backed reasons compelling you to hit the snooze button (again, and again) as the days grey and temperatures drop.
It's not you, it's your hormones and you're certainly not alone when it comes to increasing levels of fatigue, and the all-too-appealing impulse to call in sick and stay where it feels most natural this season: your bed. We explain...
First of all, there's the lack of light
The longer hours of darkness in the winter months make you feel more tired than you actually might be. This is because your natural sleep patterns are largely dictated by light. The available light impacts the pituitary gland which produces melatonin, the hormone which regulates your sleep-wake cycles.
The less light there is, the more melatonin your body will produce, which sends the signal to your brain (and body) that it's time to catch those zzzs. Basically, when darkness falls, if you haven’t been exposed to enough light, your body starts telling you to go to bed.
Then, there's the colder airSometimes the simplest answer is the right one. It's cold outside, which means you're naturally attracted to the closest place of warmth. In this instance, it's your bed, but this rationale also explains why you make more effort to use your bath in winter... and maybe your kitchen, too. (We'll get to that in a minute.)
The fact that it's cold also tempts most people to switch on their heating systems, and while an environment which is too cold will reduce melatonin production (and thus, keep you awake), a home that is too warm will also prove problematic. You can't sleep well when you're overheated, either, and so you might be kept up (not to mention, dehydrated) by too-warm rooms.
Also, consider your eating habitsThe arrival of winter tends to bring with it major changes to your diet. You'll probably be less attracted to salads, leafy greens and fruit and turn to dense carbohydrates (for warmth, as mentioned above) instead.
The hormone leptin impacts your sleep cycle and the level of leptin in your body is heavily influenced by a surplus of sweet foods. Changes in your leptin levels will disrupt your sleep, which will leave you feeling more tired. Worse still, the fact that you feel tired tends to make you consume even more of those calorific comfort foods. It's a cycle, we know.
So... do you actually need more sleep in winter?
Actually, no. The average recommended hours of sleep a night for adults is 7.5-8 hours, and if lethargy plagues you this season, a few simple lifestyle changes should help you restore balance to your system. Still, if the problem persists, the best port of call is your GP, who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.
For now, try spend as much time outdoors as possible to expose your body to light; don't get too heavy-handed with your heating; and support your system with a healthy diet to boost your chances of a good night's sleep, as well as your immunity.
Now that we’re on the topic, here are 10 simple ways to enhance the quality of your sleep – starting from tonight.