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Winter is here. Are you sleepy?
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Winter is here. Are you sleepy?

Shorter days and longer nights during winter can affect the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, causing one to sleep longer this season

Shorter days and longer nights during winter can affect the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, causing one to sleep longer this season

Sub-zero temperatures and snowfall are bliss. However, winter could also be a season when one feels sleepy.

Chandralekha, a 24-year-old medical student from Kolkata finds it difficult to get up from bed during winter. She says, “I just feel like going into the blankets and snoozing the alarm indefinitely. I often get late for classes and tend to miss breakfast. And this disturbs my daytime routine.” This could be anyone during the winter.

Does the weather affect your sleep pattern?

“Shorter days, longer nights and limited light exposure affect the melatonin hormone in such a way that you tend to sleep early and for a longer duration compared to summer,” says Dr Sachin D, pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Manipal hospital, Bengaluru.

According to a research article published in 2021, in npj Digital Medicine, it was observed that people slept longer during winter.

Dr Sachin says, “Circadian rhythms or the circadian clock in the brain influences the sleep cycle of an individual. The rhythm is affected by the light and temperature as well as the melatonin hormone.” He points out that melatonin is secreted in response to light and it regulates the sleep cycle and sleep patterns. With a change in season, light, temperature and weather change. These can affect the production of melatonin in the brain and in turn affect the duration and quality of sleep.

winter and sleep

Why do you feel sleepy in the winter?

Lauren Duffel, a certified sleep coach and nutritionist from Canada, explains the link between sunset and sleep.

“Exposure to sunset is important to shift our circadian rhythm,” says the sleep coach who currently works in Costa Rica. She adds that witnessing the sunset is important for the body to shift from daytime hormones to night-time hormones. “But usually, sunset occurs early during winter, which cannot be witnessed by us, as we are at our workplace. Thus, we receive lesser light exposure during winter.”

Dr Amy Bender, sleep scientist and director of Clinical Sleep Science, Cerebra, Canada, says that there is one thing one can do to get back the rhythm. “Light is important to regulate our alertness. Therefore, it is important to go outside and get some light during the winter, especially during the mornings; this will help regulate our circadian rhythm.”

An increase in metabolism could also be a reason for sleepiness during winter. “Metabolism typically increases during winter; we need to generate more body heat to compensate for the cold temperatures and the outside surroundings. When metabolism is higher, sleep pressure also becomes higher. It causes us to fall asleep,” says Dr Apar Jindal, pulmonologist, MGM healthcare, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

Chandralekha says her cravings for sweets also increase during winter. This could cause drowsiness, according to Dr Sachin. “During the winters, appetite tends to increase, and the body frequently tends to increase food intake leading to drowsiness in the daytime and increased sleep. It is a vicious cycle,” he says.

How do winters affect people with sleep disorders?

Experts say that for people living with sleep disorders, winters could be detrimental.

Dr Ravindra Mehta, a pulmonologist at Apollo hospital, Bengaluru says, “In people with a controlled sleep disorder, the condition can become uncontrolled. They need to take more pills. In the case of sleep apnea, winters tend to cause dryness in the eyes. This could lead to sleeplessness. People with insomnia could also face sleep disturbances. [This could] affect them inversely if their sleep hygiene is not maintained.”

Some sleep tips for winter

  • Winter can disrupt your sleep pattern by affecting melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone) production. Sunlight in the morning can help combat sleepiness by normalizing hormone levels. This can improve your mood and help reset your sleep pattern.
  • Wearing warm clothes while going to bed will help you fall asleep quicker. Accessories like warm socks, eye and ear patches are helpful.
  • Maintaining a comfortable sleep environment is important. Lowering the thermostat, listening to calming music and keeping soothing fragrances in the bedroom can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Takeaways

  • Shorter days, longer nights and limited light exposure affects melatonin. It causes one to sleep early and for a longer duration compared to summer
  • During winter, try to get some sunlight during the day
  • Follow a diet rich in Vitamin D, follow a sleep routine and keep yourself active to ensure you get enough sleep.

(With inputs by Ipshita Ghosh)

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4 Responses

  1. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by
    him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty.

    You’re incredible! Thanks!

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