More sleep needed in winter – adjust sleep patterns seasonally, say experts

A study has found that people need more sleep during winter than any other season, suggesting that sleep patterns should be adjusted seasonally.

In the study, conducted by Charité Medical University in Berlin and published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, sleep studies were conducted on 292 participants with sleep-related difficulties where they were asked to sleep naturally, without an alarm, and the quality, type, and length of sleep was monitored month-to-month over a period of a year.

Findings showed that participants experienced 30 more minutes of REM sleep during winter than in summer, even in artificially lit urban areas, and less deep sleep in autumn. And although total sleep time was about an hour longer in the winter than in summer, researchers said that wasn’t statistically significant.

REM sleep is one of the stages of sleep linked to the circadian clock, which is affected by changing light and is crucial to forming long-term memories, regulating emotions and developing and restoring the brain.

Researchers said human body clocks are set by the sun and changing day length and light exposure over the course of the year can affect our sleep duration and quality.

“Seasonality is ubiquitous in any living being on this planet. Even though we still perform unchanged, over the winter human physiology is down-regulated, with a sensation of ‘running-on-empty’ in February or March. Societies need to adjust sleep habits including length and timing to season, or adjust school and working schedules to seasonal sleep needs,” said Dr Dieter Kunz, study author and clinical psychiatrist and sleep researcher at St Hedwig Hospital, Berlin.

Health and wellness expert, Vanessa Ascencao said the latest research adds to a growing body of evidence stressing the importance of getting good quality sleep and lack of sleep has been shown to be detrimental to day-to-day functioning and long-term health. Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea which affect sleep quality are common in South Africa, yet severely underdiagnosed.

“Create an optimal sleep environment by removing devices from the bedroom and keeping the room cool and dark. Nourish the body with the best quality food and nutrients, get daily movement or exercise and reduce caffeine and sugar. Stop eating three hours before bed. Try meditation or yoga and high-quality natural supplements such as BetterYou Magnesium Oil Goodnight Transdermal Spray and Bach Rescue Remedy Night drops,” said Ascencao.

“BetterYou Magnesium Oil transdermal spray is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium. It helps you achieve a longer, deeper sleep while reducing cortisol and increasing melatonin. Bach Rescue Remedy Night contains flower essences like White Chestnut to help naturally calm a restless mind providing relief for sleeplessness caused by stress or repetitive thoughts,” added Ascencao.

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