It may be tempting to avoid the cold by huddling inside for the whole day, but natural light exposure is actually the most potent factor regulating our sleep cycles, also known as circadian rhythms. So if you can, sneak outside for 15 minutes (morning is the best time of day) to reinforce this circadian cue.

Fun fact: this also explains why natural sunlight is a potent antidote to jet lag of a few hours difference (not 8-12 hours). If, once you get to your destination, you can resist the urge to take a catnap in your hotel room and instead get outside and chase the sunshine, it’ll make a world of difference for your sleep patterns.

The dark, oftentimes dreary winter days make napping sound that much more appealing. But here’s the thing: napping during the day decreases the “hunger” for shut-eye come nighttime and might not be the best if you have trouble falling asleep at night or if you suffer from insomnia. That being said, not everyone’s situation is the same. Some people have to nap to help them through the remainder of the day, so if you must, consider if it’s possible to decrease the duration in order to get enough sleep at night. Generally speaking, short naps don’t affect nighttime sleep quality for most.

Although everyone is different, the best practice is to refrain from eating heavy meals within three hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry within that window, try reducing the quantity to a small bedtime snack and steering clear of carbohydrate-heavy, high-fat, fried, and/or spicy foods, which engage the digestive system to work on processing the meal. Foods with a high glycemic index should also be avoided as well since they spike your blood sugar.

READ MORE: The 15 Best + Worst Foods For Your Sleep

Cold temperatures outside can often mean dry air inside which, for some, can cause respiratory ailments (sore throat, dry nasal passages) (1) as well as chapped, dry, and itchy skin. (2) It can also increase your odds of coming down with a cold (3) or flu (4) which, as we all know, prevents quality, restful sleep. With a humidifier, you can add moisture to your home—according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (5) your air should be somewhere between 30 and 50 percent humidity.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of short-term depression triggered by changing seasons. (6) When the temperature drops and sunshine is scarce, it can affect one’s mood. And research shows (7) that it can also cause sleep disturbances, notably hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness or excessive time spent sleeping at night). If you notice symptoms, talk to your doctor in order to get medical advice about potential treatment options, which can include light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, Vitamin D supplements, or antidepressant medications. (8)

And yes, there is science behind how this supports sleep! Here are the herbal teas we recommend:

  • Chamomile tea
    Clinical trials (9) suggest that it functions as a nervous system relaxer (similar to valerian root).
  • Lemon balm tea
    In one study, (10) in which it was administered via standardized extracts, lemon balm was shown to reduce anxiety (a primary barrier to quality sleep) by 18% and lower insomnia by 42%.
  • Lavender tea
    While lavender has not been shown to impact sleep quality, it is thought to facilitate the process of winding down, which in turn facilitates falling asleep. (11)
  • Passionflower tea
    In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study (12) comparing passionflower to placebo tea, the trial group showed significantly better sleep quality than the control group.

Although it might be tempting during the cold weather winter season to up the heat, hot sleep environments are physiologically activating and can run interference with the onset and/or maintenance of sleep. During certain sleep stages our bodies do not thermo-regulate as much, so if the environment is too hot, it can lead to sleep disruptions. We recommend keeping your bedroom at a cooler temperature such as 65 - 67℉.

Studies on the impact of exercise on sleep are promising. They have shown (3) that it reduces sleep latency (amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and increases the quantity of slow-wave sleep (SWS), also known as deep sleep. It takes place during stage 3, during which time it’s difficult to wake up. The brain is releasing low-frequency, high-amplitude delta waves that cause heart rate and respiration to slow down. The benefit here is for the functioning and restoration of our immune systems, which is especially important during this time of year.

High-intensity, aerobic exercise

It’s best to partake in high-intensity exercise in the morning or early afternoon so you avoid getting a flood of energizing endorphins immediately before bed.

Light exercise

Compared to vigorous exercise, a mind-body practice such as yoga, qigong, or tai chi can help you wind down at the conclusion of the day. Because it’s low-intensity, you’ll avoid getting your heart rate pumping, which increases core body temperature at a time when it should be dropping in preparation for sleep onset.

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