Winter can be disruptive to our sleep cycles, based on daylight patterns and the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Shorter days confuse our internal clock, leading to a host of complications that range from chronic sleepiness to persistent insomnia. Regardless of how it manifests, sleep disruptions quickly take their toll.
Let’s look closer at how winter gets in the way of sleep and what you can do to give your body the best shot at consistent, restful sleep this season.
What is Your Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythms are cycles based on a 24-hour internal clock. They control many physiological processes, but are most commonly associated with sleep. Relying on external factors like sunlight, your circadian sleep cycle controls melatonin production, which dictates how sleepy we are and how our bodies prepare for rest.
How Does Daylight Affect Sleep Habits?
Your circadian sleep cycle is most-affected by light two hours before bedtime and approximately an hour following your normal wake-up time in the morning. In the winter, when the rhythm is out of balance, it leads to troublesome sleeping patterns. Your body isn’t sure when to produce melatonin, or how much.
Melatonin triggers a sensation of sleepiness. During the daylight hours, the sun suppresses its production. During the winter months—when you generally don’t get much sunlight—melatonin isn’t suppressed as much. The result? You feel tired more often or have trouble falling and staying asleep.
Winter is a Difficult Time of Year for Sleepers
Winter is linked to both Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and a disrupted circadian rhythm, which make getting a good night of shuteye very difficult during this season. The reason has to do with the brain’s response to light.
When there are decreased light levels present—such as at night or during shorter winter days—the brain produces more melatonin, and we get sleepier more easily. While we may be sleepier in the winter and thus tend to sleep more, science proves that the more we sleep, the more lethargic we are during waking hours. As a result, many people find themselves groggy from sleeping too much or unable to regulate melatonin, which means they’re not sleeping enough.
Thankfully, there are several ways to get your circadian rhythm back on track. You can take melatonin supplements over the counter to help beat insomnia or use a light box to help your body re-regulate its internal clock. For most people, however, diet is the simplest and best option to explore.
Keto Could Help Get Your Circadian Rhythm Back on Track
A healthy diet helps to nourish our bodies and provide the energy and vitamins we need to combat winter’s daylight woes.
Keto in particular shows promise in helping us nourish our bodies and ensure we get a good night’s sleep. The Keto diet helps manage glucose control and insulin sensitivity, which allows the body to achieve a better standard of sleep thanks to the production of adenosine, which aids in sleep regulation. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired this winter, cutting carbs and replacing them with fat can be a great way to kickstart your circadian rhythm once again.
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