It’s that time of year again. The Fall season is upon us and with it comes shorter days and longer nights. While the cooler, milder weather may be a plus, there may be reason to dread this time of year as well as the winter season that inevitably follows. Season changes may have a negative impact on sleep. Quality as well as quantity of sleep could be affected as we say goodbye to the longer days and shorter nights of Spring and Summer.
Below are examples of how long nights of fall and winter may negatively impact sleep.
Lack of Light
With a decrease in the amount of light we are exposed to in the Fall and Winter comes an increase in levels of Melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is a natural substance made by the body, which regulates sleep. When there is not enough Melatonin produced in the body, it may be harder to fall asleep at night. When there is too much Melatonin in the body, feelings of sluggishness and fatigue may be experienced, regardless of hours of sleep each night.
In addition to increased Melatonin levels, some people may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is caused by lack of natural light and is characterized by depressive episodes during seasonal changes.
Changes in Weather
As the weather starts to get colder, the use of indoor heating increases. The temperature of the air in our homes affects our quality of sleep. When the air is too cold, Melatonin production may be interrupted, which may interfere with sleep patterns. When the air is too warm, our bodies become more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and influenza.
Cooler weather also has a negative impact on people who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as arthritis. Colder weather may cause an increase in pain levels, which may make it more difficult to get comfortable at night and fall asleep.
Changes in Eating Habits
With the Fall and Winter seasons come holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are well-known for sugary/fatty foods. What we put into our mouths each day has a direct impact on the length and quality of our sleep each night. Sugary and fatty foods slowdown metabolism and the body becomes sluggish. We may feel much more tired and have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
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