Rest Easy. Cultivating Healthy Sleep in Hibernation Season
The end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) marks the transition to the darker, colder months ahead. People generally have mixed feelings about the shift. Where some believe it helps them make the most out of the short winter days, others find it extremely disruptive to their schedules.
There is something appealing to “gaining” of an hour of sleep, but one study found that the autumnal change of time and light results in a cumulative effect of sleep loss. Others have examined the effect of DST cycles in its impacts on sleep cycles, finding the fall transition harder on early risers, with the “springing forward” of clocks harder on the night owls.
Whichever transition you find harder to adjust to, the fact is, Canadians aren’t getting enough sleep to begin with.
- 43% of men and 55% of women aged 18 to 64 reported trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
- About one-third sleep fewer hours per night than recommended (7-9 hours) for optimal physical and mental health. (Source: stats Canada)
Insufficient sleep – both in poor duration and quality – has established ties to problematic health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, and more. Not to mention the everyday effects of a poor sleep: grogginess, grumpiness and an inability to focus.
On the flip side – sufficient, quality sleep allows your body and mind to rest and regenerate, so it functions better on a physiological and emotional level, for better immunity, mood and efficiency. Sleep is also essential for children and adolescents in supporting hormone function for healthy growth and development.
But whether you endure the time change with grace or gritted teeth, there are some strategies to build a better sleep regimen.
There are a variety of safe and effective Natural Health Products (NHPs) that offer simple and effective sleep support.
- Melatonin supplements can help to regulate circadian rhythms and are helpful in inducing and maintaining sleep for those with regular sleep habits, as well as those who have issues with insomnia or jet lag.
- Magnesium has many roles in the human body, including contributing to relaxation as well as improved sleep quality.
Herbal products come in many forms like capsules, teas and tinctures and can help encourage restful sleep, including:
- Rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha – both offer adaptogenic benefits to offset stressors that can affect healthy sleep, and ashwagandha has been used traditionally in Ayurveda as a sleep aid.
- Passionflower – used in herbal medicine as a sleep aid for restlessness or insomnia due to mental stress.
- Hops and chamomile – both used to for their calmative effects in helping to relieve nervousness.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Good “sleep hygiene” comes out of cultivating a series of lifestyle habits that foster sound, healthy sleep. Some of these habits include:
- Establishing a bedtime buffer – Designate a window before sleep time for relaxing activities, like reading, yoga or meditation. Avoid stimulants and stimulating behavior, including eating late at night to allow digestive processes to rest.
- Putting down the device – Screen time in the evenings can delay your body’s internal circadian rhythms and supresses the release of sleep-inducing hormones so it is harder to get to sleep and to get adequate REM sleep. Over time, this can culminate in sleep deficiency.
- Getting regular exercise – (But not close to bedtime) has shown positive effects on sleep, especially activities performed outside in nature, which has demonstrated positive effects on sleep, and increases exposure to natural light (also good!).
- Sticking to a schedule – Not just retiring at the same time each night, but also waking at the same time builds supportive sleep patterns.
Create a healthy sleep atmosphere
Set your bedroom up as your “hibernation den” with a supportive mattress, comfortable bedding and ensure that the room is dark, so your body can produce sleep hormones. Invest in black-out shades and remove and any light-emitting electronics. Some find diffusing essential oils to be helpful in setting the mood for relaxation as well.
If you like to read in bed before drifting off, consider swapping out your light bulbs for those that don’t emit blue light that won’t interfere with prepping the body for sleep.
Make these sound sleep strategies a priority along with other seasonal habits to keep yourself happy and healthy over the next few months when you’ll need it the most. Visit your local CHFA Member health food store to find a wide selection of natural health products (NHPs), and expert advice in choosing products that can help you relax, unwind and get the best rest you can. Here’s to the cozy months ahead, nurturing healthy hibernation habits. Sweet Dreams!