Winter is coming …

Despite the fact that winter does not officially start until mid-December, we are already setting our clock back one hour this weekend which means one hour of extra sleep.
Only upsides, right?

Not quite…
The combination of this yearly shift with shorter days and longer nights leads to;

  • waking up more early
  • falling asleep later than usual

In the long run, this could result in general fatigue and less focus during the day.

Something you recognize?
Well, your sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the sleep hormone melatonin. As the production of melatonin increases when the exposure to natural light decreases, this hormone can be disturbed during wintertime.

Due to the dramatic decrease of natural light exposure (think about your daily commutes in the dark), melatonin will be present throughout the entire day. As a result of spending our evening in a lot of artificial light, the production of melatonin won’t exponentially grow to a peak. In ¬†other words: you might feel a general fatigue throughout the day and no real sleep stimulus to actually go to bed.

Additionally, the combination of changes in melatonin and serotonin levels with the changes in your circadian rhythm, can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern that is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that permeate all aspects of one’s life.

Apart from light, your sleep-wake cycle is also influenced by the timing of your meals and exercise. Due to reverting our clock one hour back there are less ‘light hours’ after work. This leads to most outdoor training sessions being performed in the dark. Moreover, training in the dark blunts the sleep stimulus even further as it stimulates the wake-response.

Lastly, the one-hour switch takes on average six weeks to adjust. To make the transition as smooth as possible, you can follow the next tips & tricks.

  1. Try to push back your sleeping time 10-15 minutes for a couple of days.
  2. Respectively and if possible, shift your waking time as well to keep a regular sleep pattern.
  3. In case you wake before your alarm clock, get out of bed. Staying in bed won’t provide you any quality-sleep. Spend this extra time with something that lines up with your sleep-wake cycle, e.g. cold shower, morning run, coffee, … Don’t send your brain mixed signals by jumping onto the couch with a book and dimmed lights.
  4. Spend as much time as possible in natural daylight/outdoors. Having a break? Make a short walk outside, even when it’s cloudy or raining.
  5. Symptoms of SAD? Use light therapy in the morning to affect the brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep. A half hour exposure to a 10.000 LUX light will ease your symptoms and increase your energy levels.

 

Sleep tight!

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