The change of seasons can make us feel different in all kinds of ways: some note an increase in headaches, while others cite the return of seasonal allergies – so if you noticed that you haven't slept well in the past few days since the weather changed, you may have been on to something.
Our sleep is affected by the seasons, and right now our sleep cycles may change for the winter.
"During the winter, when the daylight hours are lower than in the summer, the brain is exposed to less light in the evenings - and this means that our body produces more melatonin (the sleep hormone), which affects us by making us feel tired," Dr. Sarah Petal told The Independent.
"With less sunlight, there is also less opportunity for the body to produce Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with decreased immunity, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and mood swings," explained Dr. Petal.
Dr. Petal also explained that our typical sleep cycle is related to our serotonin and melatonin levels. "Around this time of year, our serotonin tapers off earlier because it gets darker earlier, and that changes our inner desire to sleep and makes us feel less alert when we wake up."
So what can be done to fight this restless phenomenon?
Try to go outside as often as possible throughout the day, as exposure to natural light is really good for activating serotonin receptors – which have a profound effect on sleep.
Keep the bedroom temperature cool
Temperature is an integral part of sleep quality, along with the light levels in your bedroom. The International Sleep Foundation recommends approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius (roughly 65 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to achieve optimal sleep. They also recommend changing from a warm blanket to a light sheet in your bed.
Take vitamin D supplements
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D ranges from 400 international units (IU) to 800 units depending on age. The problem is that in order to get vitamin D, we typically need natural sunlight. In the summer, about 20 minutes of exposure to the bright sun is enough to fill our needs, but in the fall and winter - when our skin is more covered and sunlight is harder to come by - at least two hours a day are needed.
According to quite a few studies conducted on the subject, physical activity leads to an improvement in the overall quality of sleep, shortens the time required to fall asleep, lengthens the total number of hours of sleep, and leads to an overall improvement in daily functioning. Just in case you needed an excuse to get off the couch.