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How to sleep better in the winter

People associate long winter nights with plenty of sleep, but that’s not always the case. The change in daylight, routine, and temperature can throw off your sleep schedule and leave you feeling tired instead of refreshed. And many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can make you feel exhausted even if they’re getting the right amount of sleep. Here’s how to work with the cold season to make sure you’re rested and ready for the new year.

Adjust your lighting

It’s dark when you leave for work, and it’s dark when you come home. The normal rhythm of signals that tells your body when to sleep and when to wake up are disrupted. Try introducing different light into your bedroom. When it’s time to power down, turn off the bright lights and turn on warm, red-tinted light. Salt lamps have a great glow! When it’s time to get up, there are alarm clocks that use light to help tell your brain it’s time to get active. Light therapy lamps are also a good addition if you have SAD, but most everyone can benefit from spending some time in good light when there’s not enough natural sunshine.

Get your temperature right

There’s a tendency to pile on the flannel as soon as it starts getting cold, but you might be overdoing it. The ideal sleep temperature is about 65 degrees F – cool enough that you can get cozy under some blankets. If you’ve got too much heat you won’t be comfortable, just like sleeping in the summer. The best bet is to dress lightly and layer your bedding so that it’s easy to adjust as needed. Make sure to block drafts as well. A sudden gust of cold air can wake you up much like a noise can, and it can make it hard to keep your bedroom at the right temperature.

Stick to your schedule

With all the holidays that come in cold months, it’s easy to let yourself slip. Late nights out at parties and long stretches without exercise can be a great way to relax. It’s important to get back to your sleep schedule instead of drawing out the indulgence. You’ve still got to work, so going to bed and getting up at the same time will help keep your circadian rhythm on track.

People who exercise regularly are more likely to have an easier time falling asleep and getting better quality of sleep. Exercise also fights SAD – not to mention working off the extra food. If you can’t do your usual exercise routine because it relies on being outside, find a new one to do inside at the same times (YouTube has lots of videos to keep your heart pumping). 

And with the holidays comes a lot of food. Treats that you don’t normally eat can be filled with things that are harder to digest, which keeps you up. Try to avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime. If you can’t avoid it, try to stick to snacks that are lighter and won’t give you heartburn. Ease up on the alcohol – it relaxes you but also disrupts REM.

Treat your sinuses

For all the snow outside, the air can get really dry in the bedroom. This sucks up moisture from your nasal passages and cause you to start snoring, which disrupts your sleep. Add a humidifier to keep enough dampness in the air to soothe your sinuses. It has the added benefit of being a source of white noise, another sleep aid. ‘Tis the season for coming down with the cold or flu, and sleeping with a stuffy nose can be impossible. Keep your head elevated to keep airways open and things flowing (an adjustable bed can get to the perfect position for what ails you, without stuffing a bunch of pillows underneath).

Check on your bed

For those long nights, make sure you’ve got the right support under you. The wrong bed can leave you tossing and turning. It really is true that you should replace your mattress every 8 years – spending hours on them can break down the internal components. If your mattress is new but you’re still not comfortable, it could be what’s underneath. If you haven’t looked at your bed frame in a while, take a minute to give it a checkup. Are the feet firmly on the floor? Are there enough slats, and are they free of cracks and bends? Is something squeaking every time you turn over? If it might be time for a replacement, bed frames and supports are a less expensive fix than getting a whole new mattress!