Kick off this winter with better sleep habits to stay healthy and happy throughout the holidays. The cool weather is conducive to rest, often beckoning people to turn in early and hearty holiday meals often result in much-needed naps. A natural phenomenon recognized by many cultures is autumn weariness, where the body recoups from the rigors of long hot summer nights. In this article, we will look at few tricks for staying healthy during winter months, plus habits that lead to better sleep and tips to ensure your bedroom and mattress is comfortable and ready for rest.
Getting Better Sleep During Winter
Fall and winter weather brings cool nights which are a natural for better sleep and snuggling up under cozy blankets. A comfortable temperature for most people ranges from 54-75 degrees, with most preferring a temperature of 60-68 degrees. This temperature allows the body to work efficiently without having to expend energy warming or cooling during the sleep cycle.
There are however some drawbacks to winter weather, which is often accompanied by dryer air. This problem can be compounded by dust and pollens, as windows are closed and heat is forced through ductwork and registers which haven’t been used recently. Solutions include the use of an air purifier or humidifier as well as cleaning the vents and swapping out air filters. Homes in wetter climates or those prone to mold or mildew might benefit more a dehumidifier however, so it is important to take your weather and region into account.
1) Stay Healthy
Counter the negative effects of winter weather with tips that help keep you healthy. Boosting your immune system also helps ensure you get good sleep, which tends to suffer when people are sick with congestion and coughing..
- Wash Up. Cold and flu germs can be found on door handles, chairs, counters, gyms and many other places. Wash your hands often using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol hand sanitizer before cooking, eating or touching your face. Use a paper towel to open doors in public restrooms after washing your hands. And, don’t forget to keep your mitts moisturized as well to prevent painful chapping and cracking.
- Green Up. Placing green plants throughout the home naturally increases moisture levels, and many are also considered beneficial for indoor air quality. The healthiest indoor plants according to Huffington Post include English Ivy (best at air-filtering), Aloe (air cleaning and first aid), rubber trees (purifying and low maintenance), and Snake Plants (oxygenating and low maintenance). Bamboo palms, philodendrons, golden pothos, gerber daisies, and chrysanthemums are also worth adding.
- Light Up. Many people who feel blue during the winter months suffer from a lack of natural sunlight. This can decrease levels of hormones that not only affect moods but also sleeping patterns. Using SAD lamps to mimic the sunlight to help alleviate this problem, or take a daily walk to catch rays.
- Eat Up. Eat hearty seasonal foods that replenish moisture and vitamins such as fruits (apples, quinces, pears, citrus, and kiwis) and vegetables (winter squashes, beets, cabbage, leafy greens and root veggies). Since we tend to spend less time outdoors in the winter, incorporate plenty of vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, and fortified supplements.
- Grow Up. Start a kitchen window garden for fresh herbs. Basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, dill and mint are all easy to grow indoors and offer a range of potent, healthy vitamins and minerals year-round. In addition to brightening up your kitchen and air quality, herbs punch up any winter meal and also can be added to teas. Plus, growing your own is significantly cheaper than buying from stores.
- Step Out. Regular exercise helps you stay healthy during the winter as it boosts the immune system. People who normally walk or enjoy outdoor activities may think about joining the gym or walking in a local mall to make sure they receive enough exercise during these months if it is too cold to go outdoors. There are also plenty of good indoor exercises like pilates, yoga, and even Wii and Xbox games to keep you in shape.
- Talk It Up. Socializing with friends has been shown to decrease the levels of stress in people’s daily lives. Stress also depletes vitamins and minerals that are stored within the body, making us more susceptible to colds and flu. So, don’t be hermit in the winter; make time for plenty of family and social activities.
- Drink Up. Drink plenty of water during cold winter months. Many people don’t realize that our bodies continue to dehydrate even when temperatures are low. Heaters lower the moisture in the air and can make skin and hair dryer than usual. Adequate moisture helps safeguard the skin against small cracks, as well as lubricating breathing passages. Water also helps your body flush toxins and transports important nutrients.
- Clean Up. Air quality within the home or office is important to overall health. Replace furnace filters according to the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. Use HEPA approved filters if possible to reduce allergens which can accumulate in winter months when buildings are kept closed up.
- Sleep In. Sleep is essential for the body’s immune system to operate correctly and to allow for healing and repair. Studies have shown that people who suffer from sleep loss are more prone not only to colds and flu, but also to more serious conditions including diabetes and heart related issues. Adults should receive 7-9 hours of sleep every night, while children need closer to 10 hours and teens may need as much as 11 hours.
2) Adopt Habits for Better Sleep
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe practices that help improve sleep quality, including both behavior habits and environmental changes meant to encourage relaxation. Most of these practices can easily be implemented by people of all ages. Fall or winter can be a great time to improve or create a routine that can help improve school and work performance. The following tips can help your family sleep better tonight:
- Though the couch beckons us to take naps, napping can be counterproductive to a full night’s rest. Limit the length of time spent napping, or cut them out altogether if you have difficulty sleeping at night.
- Exercise helps improve the length of time we sleep, even in moderate amounts. A daily trip to the gym or a walk in the evening will provide long-lasting benefits. Yoga is a popular evening choice as it relaxes the body.
- Sunlight helps regulate the body’s production of hormones, especially melatonin which is partially responsible for preparing the body for sleep. Its daily importance should be stressed for older people who may not get outdoors as often as children or younger adults.
- Similarly, darkness helps signal the brain to sleep. Dim lights a few hours before bed, and reduce lighting in your bedroom. Even small lights on VCRs or alarm clocks can be enough to disturb sleep so cover these or remove them.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Alcohol is tricky, it may initially help the user fall asleep, but a few hours later as it begins to wear off, people tend to have difficulty staying asleep. The nicotine found in all forms of tobacco is a stimulant that disrupts patterns of rest.
- A late night meal can wreak havoc with a good night’s rest as the body works hard digesting food. On the other hand, a light healthy snack of protein or veggies can help induce sleepiness and make it easier to doze off. Avoid spicy, sugary or acidic foods close to bedtime.
- Spend a little time preparing for bed with a regular routine that helps you relax. This can include a warm bath, cup of herbal tea, reading a book or recording in a journal. Try to put worries and troubles aside and avoid confrontations in the evening.
3) Make Sure Your Bedroom is Hibernation-Ready
A cozy and comfortable bedroom is important for physical and mental comfort. Here are a few tips:
- Make sure your mattress is in good shape. Feeling tired or stiff and sore during the day may signal that your mattress is no longer providing the support needed for quality sleep. If you mattress is over seven years old or shows visible signs of wear like deep impressions or busted springs, it may be time to replace it. Take a look at our helpful mattress guides and articles to see how leading brands compare. Winter is an excellent time to shop for a bed, as retailers’ Black Friday mattress sales often represent the best deals of the year.
- Keep it clean. Do a thorough cleaning and dusting of your bedroom, including furniture, bedding, pillows and your mattress. Take a hard look at your bedroom especially if fighting colds and flu has become the norm. Spot clean any stains, vacuum the surface, launder pillows, and inspect for mold, mildew and bed bugs. Dust mites are a leading home allergen and they collect in old mattresses and pillows so consider replacements (7-10 years for beds, 6-18 months for pillows) or dust mite-proof covers.
- Go for winter-friendly bedding. Winter usually calls for warmer bedding, but you still want to make sure it is breathable so you don’t sweat or get too hot. Natural fibers like wool, cotton and bamboo help regulate temperatures and remain breathable, whereas synthetic fibers trap moisture and warmth and can become uncomfortable.
Sleeping well is important year-round, but in cold winter months getting good rest and practicing healthy habits helps prevent illness, weight gain and stress that often go along with the season. Ensuring you have a healthy and comfortable bedroom, exercise, and nutritious vitamin-rich foods along with other habits offers a good strategy for getting better sleep and set the stage for good habits the rest of the year.