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During the winter, the temptation to sleep longer and more frequently is understandable given the colder weather and shorter days. However, according to Dr. Emerson M. Wickwire, Sleep Medicine Program Director at Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Associates in Columbia, M.D., increasing sleep during winter can negatively affect your body clock, resulting in compromised sleep quality, and issues such as fatigue, mood changes, or insomnia.
With spring approaching, it's time to establish a healthy sleep routine by readjusting your circadian rhythm. Leave behind the bad habits of winter and prioritize a healthy sleep schedule for optimal well-being
What is Circadian Rhythm and Why is it Important?
The reason why you get the urge to sleep is the signals you perceive in your environment such as the temperature, and dark and light exposure. The circadian rhythm or your internal body clock takes these as cues whether to sleep or wake up.
For example, when the weather is colder and days are shorter like in the winter, your brain activates certain hormones like melatonin, regulates body temperature, and alters metabolism to help you sleep faster.
The circadian clock is your sleep-wake pattern over the 24-hour cycle. When your internal clock follows a regular and healthy sleeping routine it helps promote consistent and restorative sleep. Restful sleep aids with recovery and promotes the growth of tissues and bones. It is also essential in boosting immune function as well as improving mental health.
Disruptions in the internal body clock impact your sleep quality and this can lead to several health issues like metabolic disorders, diabetes, and cognitive problems, Thomas Neylan, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco said.
Tips to Improve Your Sleep and Body Clock
If you are ready to welcome the spring season well-rested and with glee, consider some of these tips to have a restful slumber:
Bask in the Sun
Spring marks the appearance of the sun, fortunately, sunlight offers a significant effect on your circadian rhythm. The sunlight sends a signal to your brain through your eyes, directly influencing your body clock to stay synchronized over the 24-hour cycle. In essence, even if you're asleep your mind can tell whether it's daytime or nighttime.
Basking in the sun and exposure to sunlight helps you keep in sync with your circadian rhythm. This helps activate hormones in your body such as serotonin to promote productivity and energy to keep your day going.
On the other hand, exposure to artificial light during the evening pushes the sleep cycle in reverse, affecting your day-night schedule and sleep-wake cycle. This is the reason why using a cell phone or any device that emits blue light at night is not recommended as it can mess up your sleep hours.
Slow down on Caffeine
Caffeine is commonly found in coffee; over 53% of American adults drink this to boost productivity and energy. But what’s the catch? Caffeine can cause jitteriness, headaches, and worse, it has a negative impact on your sleep.
While drinking caffeinated coffees helps keep you awake and alert, this effect can extend until bedtime, making sleep a hard task.
If you are like most people who can’t function without a sip of coffee, try to consume it 8 hours before bed to get a good night’s rest.
Set a Sleep Routine
Do you catch yourself sleeping at different hours of the night? If so, building a healthy sleep routine is essential to get well-rested. Set up a sleep schedule and try to stick with it daily to maintain a balanced circadian rhythm. This tip makes falling asleep and waking up a piece of cake.
Practicing sleep hygiene before bedtime such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, stretching, or using an eye massager makes your sleep an enjoyable one, Rafael Pelayo, M.D., Clinical Professor at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic suggested.
As you know, exercising helps with producing happy hormones like serotonin and melatonin. These brain chemicals benefit your wellness by putting you in a good mood and helping you sleep easily.
Furthermore, working out is one effective way to reset your body clock by helping your body’s other systems to keep in sync with your circadian rhythm. However, try to avoid performing vigorous exercises hours before bedtime as it can overstimulate your body.
To get the best sleep, doing physical activity in the morning for 30 minutes daily is enough for you to acquire quality zzzs.
Want the best sleep experience? Here’s what you can do: Filter out the noise. Loud noises or sounds can prevent you from having high-quality sleep. Avoid turning on the television and keep your phone on silent during bedtime.
Next, try to dim your lights or switch them off to block signals that may tell your brain that it is still daytime. As previously mentioned, bright lights affect your day-night perception.
Additionally, a cool bedroom temperature can help you sleep at night faster. Between 60 to 67°F (15 to 19°C) is the optimal temperature.
Having a good night’s sleep is essential for performing activities and responsibilities with ease the next day. It helps you build immunity against health issues like insomnia and fatigue by keeping you well-rested. Incorporating and practicing a good sleep routine is critical to support a balanced circadian rhythm and in turn your wellness.
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