It’s Sleep Awareness Week, the time of year when everyone should appreciate why sleep is crucial for their body, mind and overall well-being. But as a society, we do not sleep well. Our latest sleep health survey shows that 41% of Australians are not getting enough sleep, 35% wake up tired, and 23% take more than half an hour to drift off.1
To improve these stats in time for our next survey, we’re constantly reminding everyone of the things they can do to achieve healthy sleep, such as tips on how to improve sleep hygiene or how to ensure your bedroom is a sleep sanctuary. One thing that is often overlooked is the effect of the seasons.
With Sleep Awareness Week celebrated every year in March and coinciding with autumn, we wanted to look at why we think it’s the season that’s most conducive to healthy sleep and how you can take advantage of it.
Less sunlight and Vitamin D
As the days get shorter and we spend more time indoors, we get less and less sunlight. And because our vitamin D levels depend on the amount of sunlight we get, they become diminished. When this happens, our bodies feel sleepier during the day.
Sunlight also helps control when the sleep hormone melatonin is released in our bodies. Because it gets darker earlier in autumn, we’ll feel sleepier a lot earlier than usual.
Days and nights are cooler
Hot humid air in summer not only makes it a struggle to fall asleep but also stay asleep. When we toss and turn at night, our bodies fail to settle into deep sleep, the most restful stage where our bodies can recover the most.
Your body’s natural reaction just before sleep is to drop its core temperature and stay that way until you wake up. Cooler air in autumn better supports this process. It’s why we often advise people to ensure their bedroom is cool rather than warm when it comes to bedtime.
Time to relax and hibernate
With autumn marking the time when animals start preparing for hibernation, we should take it as a cue to slow down and commit to a routine of relaxing pre-bed rituals every night. You could, for example, make a habit of snuggling up to a good book, enjoying a pot of herbal tea or taking a warm scented bath every night.
It would be best to avoid electronic screens and devices that can suppress the release of melatonin you need to begin falling asleep.
As if a runny nose, itchy eyes and sinus congestion weren’t bad enough, allergies can make it hard to get a good night’s rest. While every season tends to have allergens, such as pollen in the spring and summer, and mould in winter, you can generally breathe and sleep a little easier in autumn.
If you take advantage of the cleaner and cooler autumn air to create a proper sleep routine, you’ll have boosted your immunity with healthy sleep by the time winter arrives too.
Turn over a new leaf this autumn
Less light, cooler nights, decreased allergens, and an excuse to pamper yourself every night are just a few reasons why you should make autumn the season to get on top of your sleep.
While you may miss the long active days and late social nights of summer, there’s a reason we have seasons. They help every living thing maintain their energy balance. So, make autumn your season of rest too, starting this Sleep Awareness Week.
Credit Andrew Mun