Winter’s Affect on Sleep

Updated May 12, 2022

woman under a blanket

Sleepiness During the Winter

When it is colder outside, you may find it harder to get out of bed in the morning. You may also find yourself more tired during the day. The cold weather and shorter days have ways of making you tired and struggling to find energy. This page will discuss these challenges and how to fix them.

Dehydration

A study from the University of New Hampshire found that the chance of dehydration increases during the winter months. People do not feel as thirsty when the temperature drops and they might drink as much water. Over time, dehydration will make you feel fatigued and will contribute to feeling tired throughout the day.

There is more dry air when it is cold compared to warmer air. Another factor that can dry you out is wearing winter attire can increase the effort of moving to cause you to sweat more than you realize. Drink water to stay hydrated, coffee, soda, or hot chocolate do not help with hydration, they can actually make it worse. Sleeping with a humidifier can also help you sleep during the winter season.

Signs of Dehydration

Intermountain Healthcare offers 8 signs of winter dehydration to watch out for. These symptoms include:

  1. Thirst - the most obvious sign, if you are thirsty, your body needs water.

  2. Dark-colored urine - aim for light yellow or close-to-clear color.

  3. Sweating or urinating less frequently - People usually urinate between 6 to 10 times a day and sweat during physical activity or exercise, if this isn’t you, you’re dehydrated.

  4. Fatigue - Water is essential for your body to function, feeling sluggish is a sign of dehydration.

  5. Dry Mouth - Indicates that your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva.

  6. Dry skin - Signs of dry skin include itchiness, dullness, fine lines, and wrinkles.

  7. Headaches - Pain is caused when your brain temporarily contracts from fluid and pulls away from the skull.

  8. Sugar craving - Dehydration causes your body to struggle to break down glycogen and fails to release glucose to your bloodstream. This will result in a craving for sweets, chocolate, or anything high in sugar.

Shorter Days

During the wintertime, there are fewer daylight hours than in the summer. The lack of light exposure can have cause problems with our internal body clock or circadian rhythm. The lack of light tells your body to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone that makes you tired which will cause problems with your sleep-wake cycle.

Another reason we get less light is that we are indoors more often in the winter. An article on Patient.info says that going outside even when it is grey and rainy will give you more light than the artificial light you get from being in the house or the office. Experts suggest pushing yourself to take a walk and spend more time outdoors if you feel tired during the day.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

After the seasonal changes bring in the cold temperatures, some people suffer from a mood disorder known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Other names for this are seasonal depression or winter blues. Symptoms may include weight gain, tiredness, and oversleeping.

To treat SAD, doctors may advise light therapy which involves using a device known as a light therapy box. This device will produce a bright light that will mimic natural light and hopefully boost your energy level.

Trouble Falling Asleep

The optimal sleeping temperature is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are trying to fall asleep with the room temperature way below that, you may face difficulty falling asleep. Be careful not to have too many blankets on or the thermostat up too high as this can worsen certain sleep disorders like insomnia and disrupt the quality of your sleep.

To sleep better, make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. For a good night's sleep, make the heat is just right or you have enough sheets to keep your body temperature at the optimal level. For more help on setting a proper sleeping environment check out our article on sleep essentials.

Cold Air

The cold air by itself does not make you tired. If you are dressed warmly you will be fine. If you are not dressed warm enough, you may start to shiver in the cold air.

According to Healthline, shivering can boost your body’s surface heat production by about 500 percent. Shivering cannot help you forever, after a couple of hours your muscles run out of glucose (sugar) to fuel your body. This will make your muscles too tired to contract and relax.

Running out of energy makes you tired. If you have trouble breathing in the cold air, you may have cold-induced asthma which will make you feel tired.

Conclusion

The cold weather on its own does not make you tired but some of its side effects can. Being dehydrated for too long can cause fatigue. Lack of exposure to daylight will disturb your circadian rhythm and make you want to fall asleep before bedtime. Shivering from the cold air can wear you down.

The easy fix is to dress warm and stay hydrated. If your bedroom is too cold consider some of our winter shopping products to keep yourself warm. For more help, visit our page on sleep loss if you have trouble falling asleep.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.


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