If you are like many of us, you’ve been sleeping in a bit more lately or not sleeping enough. With kids home from school, visitors in your home, and routines altered, many of my friends have been reporting that they are sleeping in much later than usual, or not sleeping well. Similarly, I have had my kids frequenting my bed late at night complaining that they wake up and can’t get back to sleep. I too have slept in much later than usual over the past few weeks. Of course, I am often awake anywhere from 2-4 in the morning.
So, what’s up? For me, it’s a relic of coping with an injured shoulder, but for many people, the biggest culprit is likely the lack of light. According to many experts that you too can Google, natural sunlight affects the amount of melatonin your body produces. Melatonin is the hormone your body produces that signals it’s time to sleep. Cold weather too affects the amount of melatonin your body produces. Too much sugary and foods (think holiday foods) can also disrupt the rhythms. So, combine gray days, low light, heavy foods and cold weather and you have a recipe for a troubled night of sleep or too much sleep.
Another ingredient in the recipe of bad sleep is warm, dry interior air. Heating homes can dry out the air and consequently dry out your mucous membranes causing stuffy noses and troubled breathing. In our house, this equates to nose bleeds almost every night. Experts say a warm bed with cooler air around 67 degrees is the ideal sleep environment.
Given it’s the time of year for resolutions, if you are having trouble sleeping, try making a resolution to take a walk in the daylight before noon each day and expose your skin to the sun. This will help generate the production of vital vitamin D. But that’s likely not enough, especially when the ceiling of the clouds are so low. You will likely need to include a vitamin D3 supplement because vitamin D helps regulate hormones that affect sleep.
Another resolution that might be beneficial is to turn off your smartphone, tablet or TV. Watching a screen before night has been shown to cause sleep disturbances. The bluish light that emits from your digital screen disturbs sleep patterns. Try an amber or red light for reading — this also has the advantage of not disturbing others in your room or bed.
Sleep deprivation on a chronic level has negative impacts on overall health. Anyone who has experienced bouts of insomnia knows what a toll it can have on your physical energy and emotional well-being. If you find yourself overly irritable or agitated during the day, check in with your sleep.
Interestingly, a century ago Americans on average got 11 hours of sleep; today they range from six to eight. The world’s famously rich people get the average amount, with the exception of a few. According to an NPR poll, American billionaires Jeff Bezos gets seven hours, Elon Musk gets six, and Bill Gates gets seven. Winston Churchill, however, used to only get five hours of sleep from 3–8 a.m., but he had a lot to do. President Trump is said to get about four hours and reportedly stated in an interview for his biography that people who sleep a lot are lazy.
That might be true of my dog, who seems to sleep all day and all night these days. The adage, “dog days” might better be reserved for January instead of August. We are less than a month away from Ground Hog’s day, after which we will all begin to start seeing the light at the end of the proverbial winter tunnel. Hang tight and pray for snow!