Sleeping well may seem easy in the winter months during gloomy weather and grey skies; but winter can be the hardest time to catch enough zzzz’s. Post-holiday, winter blues can set in, disrupting sleep and creating a long-lasting cabin fever.
This Alaska Sleep Clinic blog gives you a few ideas on starting 2019 on the right path to great sleep.
Ideas for Your Bedroom:
- Find the best sleep position. Many are sleeping in positions without regard for the right fit for your body. Depending on your shape and physical position, you could be losing sleep.
- Think about your mattress. What you sleep on is the main contributor to a healthy night’s rest. Break down the purchase to not only what you and your partner needs but think of the right size, style, and fill. With so many choices in models, trial periods are available to make certain you are investing in the right mattress.
- Purchase a plant. Sounds a little odd but live plants in the bedroom can help lower blood pressure, repress airborne germs, and release water vapor to increase humidity.
- Seek help outside the bedroom. Maybe a chiropractor or masseuse is the best option to help you sleep more soundly.
Trying a few options can help start you on the right path to a restful year. But with stress not ending after the holidays, sleep is the necessary prescription. A great mattress and new plant may not cure counting sheep every night, leaving you tired and moody the next day.
A set bedtime and set wake time closest to your normal work week keeps normality in sleep cycles. It is hard enough to set a sleep cycle that works for your circadian rhythm so keep it as consistent as possible.
Consistency starts with balance. During the winter season, it can be harder to stay motivated both on dietary and fitness goals.
- Choose whole foods instead of processed food. By staying on the outside aisles of the grocery store, you start eating healthier.
- Say no to sugary drinks. Stopping cold turkey is tough so start small. If you drink multiple sugary drinks a day, dial back to one. Add water and herbal teas to eliminate unnecessary sugar.
- Keep healthy food readily available. After grocery shopping, divide snacks into baggies with proper serving sizes. Replace a section of the fridge with quick snacks like string cheese or small fruit.
- Eat more fish. There is a good variety either fresh or frozen and plenty of recipes online. Think outside the box to make fish Fridays a reality.
- Try small portion sizes and more meals. Bring out smaller plates during meals to eat smaller portions. Add 5 or 6 meals to the day versus binge eating in three meals.
- Count nutrients, not calories. If you want to improve the quality of your diet, focus on the nutrients in your food instead of calories.
For the most part, the winter season festivities are full of high-calorie, fatty, and sugary food which impacts hormone levels associated with metabolism and appetite.
"When our sleep cycle gets disrupted, we wind up craving those foods more and we don't know when we're full," said Chair of the Homeopathy Department at Bastyr University's School of Naturalistic Medicine, Dr. Brad Lichtenstein, N.D. "If we continue to eat like this, it will affect our sleep… it's a vicious cycle."
Dr. Raj Dasgupta, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), states poor dietary choices during the winter is one disruption the body experiences.
Comfort foods, holiday treats, and alcohol cause weight gain that can lead to sleep apnea. And extra pounds carried into the new year tend to hold on if the right exercise plan is not started.
Quick Steps to Get Started:
- Grab a partner to keep yourself accountable. Walk on your lunch hour with a co-worker or tag a friend to know you went to the gym. Either way, don’t go at it alone.
- Try something new! If you are normally a runner, add weight lifting. In January, many local gyms, religious organizations, and personal trainers offer free classes to keep your resolutions on track.
- Purchase a tracker. From swimming, walking, running, or cycling, you can start tracking your fitness. A part of the app tracker are goals, weight loss, and groups you can join as well.
- Drink up. Stay well hydrated all day not only to help balance your diet, but water prevents injuries while exercising.
Dr. Chris Winter, author of The Sleep Solution and a neurologist, suggests supplements to help in the winter months.
"Magnesium is part of the pathway that converts into the amino acids which convert into melatonin. In general, our brains like magnesium — it can really help people who have migraine and restless legs. As long as your doctor is ok with you taking it, it's worth a try,” said Winter.
Melatonin can also help your body but should only be used occasionally to avoid habit-forming tendencies.
January is dreary with gloomy skies and the post-holiday blues. But dropping stress, adding a consistent exercise routine, and trying new recipes can keep you on the right track.
The Alaska Sleep Clinic is available for free consultations if the cold weather continues to bring sleepless nights.