Sleeping with the Seasons

How Cool Weather & Longer Nights Affect Sleep

Have you ever woken up just minutes before your alarm goes off and marveled at your body’s sense of time? It’s because we have an internal clock that mirrors nature’s cycles of day and night and sunlight which is detected by cells in the retina of the eye sends messages to the brain that keep us in a roughly 24-hour pattern. These light cues trigger all kinds of chemical events in the body, causing changes in our physiology and behavior. For example, as evening approaches and the light in our environment dwindles, the hormone melatonin begins to rise and body temperature falls—both of which help us to become less alert and more likely to welcome sleep. With the help of morning light, melatonin levels are low, body temperature begins to rise, and other chemical shifts, such as an uptick in the activating hormone cortisol, occur to help us feel alert and ready for the day.

During fall and winter, the days become shorter and the nights longer which can easily affect our internal clocks – and is especially true if you find yourself rising before sunrise or not leaving work until it’s dark outside.  Temperature also plays an important role in the onset of sleep and circadian rhythms. As your body prepares to get drowsy and sleep, your internal temperature dips slightly and stays lower until a few hours before wakeup time.  Research says that cooler ambient air supports the body’s natural deep sleep process so you might find yourself experiencing deeper and longer sleep patterns in the winter months.

If you are like most working adults or students, you are probably finding that you are either exhausted, disoriented or sluggish when your alarm goes off before the sun shines through your bedroom window.  An easy solution is to use BEDDI’s wake-up light in conjunction with your alarm clock.  Set the white light to slowly illuminate the room over a 20 minute period before your alarm goes off to mimic sunrise.  Your body will be tricked that the sun is out and you will have an easier time starting your day and feeling more alert.

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