How Weather Influences Your Sleep

Sleep Tips as the Seasons Change

The fall season brings pumpkin lattés, hockey and cozy sweaters but the change of seasons can also negatively impact some people’s mental health and sleep. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can set in during the fall and winter when the daylight hours grow shorter, affects about 3% of all Canadians. While the cause of SAD is unknown, the disorder can alter melatonin levels, which play a role in your sleep/wake cycle, and cause daytime sleepiness and oversleeping. Here are a few tips to reduce the impact of the season’s changing on your sleep.

Get Plenty of Light

Fall’s shorter days mean that you’re not exposed to as much sunlight. Not only can this lower your level of vitamin D, which may leave you feeling fatigued, but it can throw off your circadian rhythm, which regulates feelings of wakefulness and sleepiness. To help combat fatigue, try to arrange your living spaces to maximize sunlight exposure, get sunshine on your face in the mornings or head out for an afternoon walk.

Get Some Exercise

It doesn’t matter if you hit the gym or just get in a daily walk. People who work out regularly sleep better—and longer—than those who don’t. Physical activity relieves stress, builds energy and increases both your physical and mental well-being. A daily noon-hour walk is a good idea, particularly if you commute to school or work in the dark hours of the day.

Plan Your Meals & Ditch Junk Food 

When you’re stuck in a seasonal funk, it’s tempting to reach for sweet and starchy comfort foods. Choose meals that give you energy during the day and restfulness for sleep. Certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy. Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan. The best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers.

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