As the summer evenings dwindle, and we look onward to Autumn, it's a feeling of bitter-sweetness. We don't want the brightness of the evenings to darken but, on the other hand, we think our sleeping patterns might improve. However, this isn't always the case.
According to the Sleep Council, there are many factors that can impinge on our sleep during the Autumnal evenings.
1. Sun Exposure
Shorter days can mean less exposure to sunlight. This means lower levels of vitamin D and increased feelings of tiredness – and also disruption of the circadian rhythm, which regulates feelings of wakefulness and sleepiness.
Further, explained by the National Sleep Foundation: "your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It's also known as your sleep/wake cycle."
Getting plenty of sun on your face in the morning can help, so even on those colder mornings, be sure to pull up the blinds as soon as you wake up and let that sunshine in and, if possible, go for a morning stroll. When the sun begins to go down, do the opposite and dim indoor lights to get your body back on track and ready for nighttime.
2. Keep cool
While crisp, chill air can make it tempting to light the fire and turn up the heating in your house, or at least your bedroom, you'll have a better sleep if you keep it between 16 and 18 degrees. If your bedroom is too hot your body will struggle to bring its temperature back down, causing wakefulness. Too cold and the body will eventually wake you up – demanding an extra blanket!
3. No phones
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression* that can set in when the days begin to get shorter. According to Mentalhealthireland.ie, it is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 15 people between September and April and can be particularly severe during December.
While the cause of SAD is still unknown, the disorder can alter melatonin levels, which play a role in the sleep/wake cycle and cause daytime sleepiness and oversleeping.
To re-establish a normal sleep schedule, exercise regularly, ensure the bedroom is fit for purpose- to sleep (strictly no gadgets and gizmos) and keep bedtime/waking times consistent – even at weekends. Getting as much natural daylight as possible is also important, as it suppresses melatonin levels and boosts serotonin production.
4. Avoiding 'comfort eating'
Colder weather can also tempt us to eat more than we should. While it's easier to stick to salads and lighter foods during warm Summer months, avoid the temptation to 'comfort eat' heavier meals as the temperatures drop – particularly close to bedtime.
Too much food, too close to bedtime is a sure-fire recipe for wake-up level heartburn and indigestion.
5. Is your bed more than 7 years old?
Make sure your bed is comfortable. It's easy to sometimes become prone to a bed when we're in it every night but if your bed is older than 7 years it's time for a new one. You might be surprised at how much of a positive effect a good, solid bed can have on your sleep.
*If you're suffering from depression or other mental health issues, contact your GP.