Our bodies take time to adjust our sleep-wake cycles to match the new season
Allergies can interrupt deeper, more restorative phases of sleep
It's within our power to try to prioritize sleep in our daily lives
It’s safe to say that spring has finally sprung! The days are lighter, the breeze is warmer and we feel sleepier than ever. What gives?
We anticipate having boundless energy as we leave our semi-hibernative states that protected us so well from the harsh winter, but many of us fall victim to substantial sleepiness as the seasons fluctuate. According to Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D., an environmental scholar with the National Sleep Foundation, much of this drowsiness is due to the fact that our bodies take time to adjust our sleep-wake cycles to match the new season patterns, and that timing is often out of sync with Mother Nature.
Pair that biological shift with our subconscious behavioral changes that come along with the changing of the seasons, and you have a solid recipe for sleep deprivation. However, recognizing the elements that are effecting the quality and quantity of your shut-eye can go a long way in turning that spring sleepiness into the steady energy you so desire.
Wondering why you’re feeling too tired to fully enjoy the springtime? Here are seven things that may be to blame for all that yawning.
1. Darn you, daylight saving time
Sure, we gained an extra hour of sunlight in the evening last month, but that doesn’t mean we feel ready to jump out of bed when that alarm clock screams at us in the morning.
“With Daylight Saving Time, we experience a desynchronization with the daylight cycle, the clock time, and our sleep-wake rhythm,” Dautovich told The Huffington Post. Every person returns to that natural equilibrium at a different pace, and those who do so more slowly tend to really feel its effects as they nod off at their desks in the middle of the afternoon. “We like routine, and our sleep-wake cycle is very responsive to consistency, so changes in the time we go to bed and wake up can be disruptive.”
2. New flower blossoms are beautiful, but they’re giving you a case of the sniffles
Allergies can definitely be the reason you aren’t reaching the deeper, more restorative phases of sleep during the springtime. A 2013 study from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that 59 percent of people who suffer from nasal allergies also struggle with their sleep quality due to their symptoms. And even if you don’t allergies, your partner might – 48 percent of people say their bedmate’s sneezing and sniffling also disturbs their sleep. After consulting with your physician for treatment options, test out these nine sleep environment and routine adjustments to see if they help reduce problematic symptoms.
3. All hail to the beloved sun!
The days are growing longer (score!), but it doesn’t quite seem this way in the morning just yet.
“Light plays a very important role in helping us to feel alert and awake, so when we wake up during the dark period, that’s not our body’s natural desire,” said Dautovich. “And so to help with that, make sure to be exposed to sufficient bright light during the day, especially during the morning, to help with those feelings of alertness.” If your spot in your office isn’t conveniently located near a large window beaming with natural light, consider taking your morning coffee outside to avoid that midday slump.
4. Hey birdies, you’re cute and all, but can you pipe down please?
By now we know how important it is to have a healthy sleeping environment: cool, dark and quiet. While we can keep our smartphones out of the bedroom and minimize the disruptive noises we’re responsible for, we have little control over the birds outside the bedroom window that are ready to chirp away at 5 o’clock in the morning (or if you live in a city, all the horn-honking that comes along with the morning commuter traffic), said Dautovich. If external noise seems to be the biggest sleep killer for you, consider purchasing some sound-proof windows to go behind those blackout curtains.
5. So much more time for activities!
With brighter, longer days comes a new sense of optimism about the bounty of things we can accomplish in 24 hours, and a mental perception that we have more energy to get it all done, said Dautovich. But our minds and bodies often times don’t agree here.
For example, you might be inclined to amp up your exercise routine and tend to it later in the evening thanks to additional daylight, but doing high-intensity activities too close to bedtime can affect the body’s slow-down process. Even though the seasons are changing, Dautovich says the key to protecting your sleep quality is to keep your daily regimen as consistent (and respectful of your sleep routine) as possible.
6. Alllll the happy hours…
Brighter, longer days also call for more get-togethers with friends, do they not? And after work, that often means gathering at the local bar for a few brews. But as fun as this tradition may be, it doesn’t do our sleep problems any favors.
“We know that consuming alcohol within two to three hours of bedtime can actually have an adverse effect on sleep, a rebound effect that causes people to wake up and have restless sleep,” said Dautovich. It’s important to not only pay attention to how many more plans you’re cramming into your day, but also limit how many of them include consuming alcohol.
7. We’re just so excited for long-anticipated springtime that we simply forget to prioritize sleep, too.
“We can experience a desynchronization when we have an increase in activity in response to warmer temperatures and longer days, changing our behavioral rhythm,” said Dautovich. “We like routine, so our sleep-wake cycle is very responsive to this change. It’s hard to ever erase or completely compensate for the deficits from sleep deprivation, but like we do with other aspects of our health and our life, it’s within our power to try and prioritize sleep in our daily lives.”
If the spring excitement is causing you forget to log those eight hours of sleep each night, try sleep tracking to increase your awareness of your habits. From high-tech electronics to pen-and-paper journaling, making a conscious effort to monitor when you shut down at night and wake up in the morning can help you understand the links between your sleep, your environment and your behavior, and what factors seem to promote better sleep.