As the seasons change and the weather fluctuates, you may find your sleep getting affected.
Changes in weather can impact the quality of your sleep, and how much of it you’re getting. Many of us have experienced a hot summer’s night tossing and turning – you wake up feeling irritable and exhausted, almost like you’ve hardly had any sleep at all. With the onset of a sweltering summer here in Australia and New Zealand, it’s worth taking a moment to be mindful of how weather changes may be affecting your sleep.
Are you struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep? Here are a few ways the changing weather may be keeping you up at night:
Temperature has a profound impact on our sleep, as we are designed to have a cooler body temperature when sleeping than when we are awake. When we try to sleep in environments that are too hot or too cold, we don’t reach the optimal sleeping temperature – and this throws off the wheel of our circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, leading to sleep deprivation.
The best temperature for sleeping is between 18–22 degrees Celsius. This may explain why we often find it difficult to sleep in summer. Being too hot at night prevents restful sleep, as the body is forced to work harder due to sweating. This prevents the body from progressing through every stage of the sleep cycle – actively preventing the deep, restful stages of sleep from taking place.
SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder, an increasingly recognised phenomenon in which the changing seasons (including the weather) cause a person to experience a drop in mood with similar symptoms as depression (1). SAD is becoming increasingly recognised as a genuine occurrence, often taking place at the onset of winter, when the temperature begins to drop and the weather turns grey and overcast. It is characterised by a lack of energy, mood swings and depressive episodes that occur during times of seasonal change – explaining the age-old saying of having the ‘winter blues’.
If you live in an area that has daylight savings through the warmer months, there is a chance it can also affect how well you rest. When daylight savings comes to a close, you may find your sleeping patterns have shifted. This is because during daylight savings, your body produces a greater amount of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep chemical – resulting in a tired, sluggish feeling.
Changes in weather and temperature can also trigger the onset of allergies for some people. For those suffering from hayfever, springtime and the onset of warm weather can cause spring allergies to flare up and lead to difficulty sleeping.
So how can you stay asleep through seasonal changes? Here are our tips on how you can minimise the weather affecting your sleep.
Stick to a schedule
Setting a regular bedtime and wake up time will help you train your body to fall asleep at the same time every night. This will promote a healthy sleep cycle, as your body will go through stages of sleep at the same time every night – and help you reach a deeper sleep. This will minimise the likelihood of being woken by weather changes through the night.
In terms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), drops in mood can often leave you feeling like you want to sleep for longer to ‘hibernate’ through the winter. We recommend resisting this urge – as oversleeping can have negative effects on your health, as well as leaving you more tired in the long run. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day and night, even on weekends.
Cool your body temperature
As the weather gets warmer and the mercury rises, a few things can be done to combat temperature. If you don’t have climate control (air conditioning) to control the room temperature in your bedroom, try the following to regulate your body temperature and keep cool at night:
- Choose the right bed linen: Cotton and linen are naturally breathable fibres that will help you keep cool.
- Experiment with different sleepwear combinations: again, natural cotton or linen sleepwear is the most cooling.
- Keep the air flowing: keep your bedroom door open through the night, and open other windows in the house to allow air to circulate freely to keep you cool.
- Invest in a mattress that is breathable: One such mattress is the , which features AeroComfort technology that promotes healthy airflow through the mattress to keep you at the ideal sleeping temperature.
Staying calm and preparing your brain for sleep will give you the best chance of getting quality sleep through the changing seasons. Research has shown that mobile phone use before bed makes the brain more alert, actively preventing the brain from sleeping (2). Next time you find yourself endlessly scrolling on your smartphone before bed, try putting it down and reaching for a book instead.
Some people find it helpful to take a bath before bed, to help them to calm down and relax.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary
We spend one-third of our lives in bed, so it’s important that we turn our bedroom into a sleep sanctuary and create an ideal environment for rest. Make sure your room is comfortable, dark, free of clutter and peaceful.
For those suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s important to make sure the things in your room promote healthy breathing and don’t attract dust mites. are the only ones approved by the National Asthma Council of Australia and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand to carry the Sensitive Choice blue butterfly symbol. That’s because they provide long term protection against dust mites and their allergens, so you can breathe and sleep easy.
- ABC News, ‘Seasonal affective disorder: Can winter really send you into a case of seasonal depression?’ June 2016