Last year I moved from Los Angeles to Michigan. Even though I was born and raised in the Great Lakes State, I found the transition to be harder than I anticipated. The weather was in stark contrast to the balmy 70-degree days I had grown accustomed to. I missed frequenting my favorite coffee shops and taking leisurely hikes around the sun-lit canyons that surround the city. The hardest part, however, had to be the change in my sleep schedule.
Blame it on the short, dark days of the Midwest winter, but I began to feel tired and sluggish all day. Then, when I would go to bed, I would lie awake for hours, metaphorically counting sheep into the wee hours of the morning. I thought this was just a “me” problem, until I spoke with friends and colleagues who were experiencing something similar. I began to wonder whether or not this was a seasonal issue, and more importantly, if there was something I could do to fix it. To find out, I reached out to two experts.
“When we talk about wintertime, I always think about circadian rhythm problems, because what really controls our circadian rhythm is light. Light is what makes us jump out of bed in the morning. It helps to reset our clock,” explained Raj Dasgupta, MD, a professor and pulmonary, critical care, and sleep specialist at the University of Southern California. “In certain parts of the States, they don’t have that luxury of being outdoors and exercising and having that bright light. Our circadian rhythm sometimes gets easily thrown off track.”
Luckily, there are a number of healthy sleep habits I, as well as others, can instill in order to regulate our winter sleep schedules. Keep reading for some expert tips.