Shorter Days Can Affect Your Sleep Biochemistry
As the days get shorter during fall and winter, we see less and less sunlight. This is especially true when you find yourself rising before sunrise or not leaving work until it’s dark outside.
Vitamin D is important for serotonin production, and serotonin is important for many functions including our sleep-wake cycles. Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, meaning when we don’t get sunlight we miss out. Research has shown that a lack of sunlight can increase feelings of depression and fatigue and increase carb cravings as serotonin levels are affected.
Lower vitamin D levels have been associated with greater daytime drowsiness, and changes in light-dark cycles can also affect when your body releases melatonin making you feel tired earlier or later than usual.
If you work indoors, make it a point to get several minutes in the sun on a break or in the morning when possible. If you can’t get outside regularly, than work near a window.
In one study,
office workers who sat near windows received higher white light exposure and also slept better than those who didn’t have windows nearby.
The effects of winter can also be more serious. The condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when symptoms of depression become clinical and show clear fluctuations between fall/winter and spring/summer.
Research also links SAD
with reduced sleep efficiency and less slow-wave sleep. SAD is more commonly diagnosed among women and in northern latitudes, and is treated with white light therapy.
In addition, the winter months bring illnesses along with them, 'colds' being a common one. Ever tired to sleep with a cold? It can sometimes be difficult due to blocked noses so its a good idea to unblock your nose before bed and wearing some sort of nasal strip to open up your airways - this will help you sleep better.