Natural Sleep Aid — Tips for Better Winter Slumber
For many of us, turning back the clocks as we do for daylight savings signals a dramatic increase in the desire for a little extra sleep. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, it is a part of the seasonal cycles.
Does winter tiredness mean that we need more hours of sleep?
The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many factors including their age and overall state of health. For most adults 6.5 – 8.5 hours is essential to maintain health, appearance and performance. But when winter hits and the mornings are dark and cold, it is tempting to stay under the covers longer. Early evening fatigue is another common issue. When it gets dark at 5pm it’s easy to feel tired and sluggish, but this doesn’t mean that we need more sleep. In fact getting too much sleep will make one feel even groggier in the daytime.
The diminished amount of daylight can have a big impact on the quality of sleep that we get. If you are feeling groggy in the morning and tired throughout the day, it is good to adjust your sleeping routine to promote better sleep. It is also a good indication that you need to come in for a seasonal “acupuncture tune-up.”
Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
Natural Sleep Aid — Good Habits:
Make the most of the darkness: Our sleep and wake cycles are regulated by light. Darkness stimulates the body’s production of melatonin, that natural hormone that tells the body’s circadian system that it is time to sleep. For better sleep:
- Turn off electric equipment at least an hour or two before going to bed.
- Be sure the bedroom is very dark — yes, this means no televisions, pads, or eBooks with backlit screens.
- While enjoying the darkness, relax to soothing music, meditate or practice breathing techniques for relaxation. It can help you wind down prepare for a good nights sleep.
- if you are not quite ready for sleep, sitting quietly with candlelight is very soothing, just be sure the candles are out when you are ready to retire.
Take advantage of the cool temperatures: It’s natural for our body temperature to drop a little when we sleep. When we achieve the right set point, we sleep better and the quality of our REM (rapid eye movement) is improved.
- The ideal bedroom temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees, however it is important to find the best cool temperature for you.
- It is better to add a couple of extra blankets to the bed than turn up the heat. Too much artificial heat dries out our mucus membranes, which leaves us more susceptible to colds and flu.
- Temperatures that are too cold can also have an adverse effect on our sleep and cause us to wake. Put socks on your feet if they tend to get cold.
Good eating and exercising habits: Insufficient Vitamin D levels can make you feel tired and it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D from the sunlight in the winter. Good food sources of Vitamin D are oily fish such as salmon or sardines, eggs, and meat.
It is important to continue to get plenty of vegetables and fruits in the winter and avoid overindulgence in carbohydrate rich foods, which can make our metabolism sluggish. Hot soups, roasted vegetables, and spicy stews with lean meats or beans are good alternatives to pasta, potatoes, bread and other pastries.
I can’t stress this enough—Drink water! Every cell of your body requires this liquid gold to keep it lubricated and running smoothly and a well-lubricated, high functioning body sleeps better.
- Warm liquids are helpful — herbal teas, broths, and hot cider are good choices.
- Avoid alcohol which can make you sleep initially, but disrupt your sleep cycle in the middle of the night.
Walking at lunchtime can help you get some extra sunlight and help you beat fatigue in the late afternoon. A stretching routine in the evening can help to de-stress and restore your energy so that you can finish your day and truly be ready for a good night’s sleep at your proper bedtime.
Winter is a natural time of turning inward. It is the gift of the season. Getting good quality sleep and keeping your metabolism from slowing down in the winter can be challenging. With some careful rebalancing of diet, activities, and sleeping conditions, you can make the most of this quiet time of the year.
If you have adjusted your sleep habits and still feel like you are ready for hibernation, make an appointment to learn if acupuncture can help you feel your best
The Healing Point Acupuncture Clinic
Xia Xin, L.Ac., CSMA