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Rise Above the Winter Doldrums

12.13.19 |

We have talked many times about the importance of Habits of Healthy Sleep both in my books and on my blog, but it remains one of the most overlooked and underestimated Habits of Health because the choices and factors that impact our sleep are not always as obvious as other Habits of Health.

For example, when you’re in line at the drugstore you know that choosing the healthy snack you have at home in the refrigerator over the candy bar at the counter is best for your Habits of Healthy Fuelings. When the seasons change, however, you cannot choose when the sun comes up or goes down. You can’t choose for the weather to be warmer (though you might make a career change that allows you to be in warmer climates when you choose, but that’s another topic). You can’t choose to keep snow off the ground for the sake of your morning walks.

How do you continue to forge Habits of Healthy Sleep when it feels like an entire season is working against you?

Here are some tips if the winter doldrums are making it hard for you to keep your sleep routine:

  • Keep your schedule. One of the cornerstones of healthy sleep is consistency. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day of the week so that you get a good night’s rest, every night. If you feel like you need to sleep in on weekends to catch up on sleep, you aren’t getting enough rest during the week!
  • Consider a sunlight alarm clock. Waking up in the dark can be a challenge for your circadian rhythms. A sunlight alarm clock can simulate a sunrise in your bedroom to gradually coax you awake. If that’s not an option for you, turn on the lights as soon as you wake up.
  • Continue your Habits of Healthy Motion. Cold weather can dampen your spirits, especially if you enjoy getting outdoors for exercise. You can still be active when the temperature drops if you’re careful, but your best route may be to try indoor activities like a walking track or yoga or even swimming.
  • Mind your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Drinking caffeine late in the day can disrupt your sleep, so avoid reaching for a cup of coffee for an extra boost (take a walk instead). Also, this time of year is full of holiday parties and family gatherings, and alcohol is often present. A small glass of red wine can be a healthy choice if it is properly portioned, but in general, alcohol does not lead to restful sleep. Drink water instead.

As dreary as winter weather can seem, especially if you live in an area where the temperatures drop and you see rain and snow for several months in a row, don’t forget to enjoy the beauty of the season. All of these tips can help your Habits of Healthy Sleep, but do not forget that you can shift your mindset around how you think about this challenge.

For me, winter weather is an exciting time. I may not be able to enjoy sailing with my family, but I can hit the slopes to ski. I can use the downtime of the holidays to catch up with my daughters and to reconnect with friends. And, of course, I can pause, take a deep breath, and appreciate the world around me.

I hope this helps you. And, as always, if you have a story or insights into how you have improved your sleep, share them with the community in the comments below.