Seasonal Changes That Affect Sleep Patterns

Have you ever wondered why the arrival of autumn affects how you sleep? The answer lies in the interconnectivity between our bodies, the changing environment, and the science of sleep regulation.

As summer fades into fall, you might notice the temperature and air changing, along with your daily routines. The lazy days of summer often allow us to have a more relaxed schedule, which can lead to staying up later and savoring the extended daylight. We equate summer with a relaxed social calendar and time off from school. However, as autumn approaches, so does the need for a recalibration in our sleep routines.

Transitioning Sleep from Summer to Fall

Transitioning from summer to fall can present challenges, particularly when we need to get used to going to bed earlier again. The return to work, school, and other commitments necessitates a shift towards a more structured sleep schedule. It’s not uncommon to find yourself reaching for the snooze button with increasing longing for the leisurely mornings of summer. 

Beyond just adjusting to the schedule change, other factors impact our stress levels and quality of sleep during this transition. For families, returning to school can usher in stress and anxiety. Kids struggle with early wake-ups while parents juggle the logistics of the school routine. Fall can be a real test for sleep routines trying to find their new rhythm.

Why Seasonal Shifts Affect Us So Much

The impact of this seasonal shift doesn’t only impact sleep itself, it also affects our internal body clocks, known as circadian rhythms.

These are like the master timekeepers in our body and they influence not just when we feel tired but also when we’re most alert and focused. A research study found that as the days grow shorter and darkness comes earlier, our circadian rhythms experience a transformation. During this time, circadian rhythms nudge us toward feeling sleepy earlier in the evening. 

The light and dark cycles also influence the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a pivotal role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle. The gradual dimming of daylight triggers melatonin production sooner, which may encourage us to go to bed earlier. 

Roadmap to Healthy Sleep Habits in Fall 

Forming a healthy sleep habit during the Fall is crucial, and we have strategies that can help guide you:

1. Gradual Adjustments: Slowly shifting your sleep schedule helps your body adapt to the new rhythm without causing sleep disruptions. As your body starts to feel naturally tired earlier, gradually adjust your bedtime and wake time to earlier. You can start with 15 minutes at a time, beginning with your wake time. 

2. Consistency is Key: Maintain your sleep schedule even on weekends and holidays. Consistency reinforces your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times.

3. Wind-Down Rituals: Set aside 1-2 hours before bedtime for relaxing activities that signal your body that it’s time to unwind. Engage in calming hobbies, avoid stressful tasks, and consider gentle stretching or reading.

4. Embrace the Morning Light: Aim to get natural light exposure in the morning. This helps regulate your circadian rhythms and enhances your overall mood and alertness.

5. Designing the Ideal Sleep Sanctuary: Create a sleep-conducive environment by keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. Investing in blackout curtains, ear plugs or a sound machine, and eliminating electronic distractions can significantly improve sleep quality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

During this transition, it’s essential to consider more than just adjusting sleep schedules. There is more to developing healthy habits – that’s where the help of a professional comes into play with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i), a proven therapeutic approach. This strategy can refine your sleep quality and patterns by changing negative sleep behaviors and thought patterns.

CBT-i encourages you to identify negative thoughts about sleep and reframe them with positive, constructive beliefs that are actually true. And by changing your thoughts and behaviors about sleep, you begin to adopt a new perspective. 

Sleep restriction, another cornerstone of CBT-i, involves a strategic approach to refining your sleep cycle. By designating specific sleep and wake times and adhering to them, you can recalibrate your body’s internal clock, improving the quality of both your nighttime sleep and daytime wakefulness.

A vital tenet of CBT-i is making sure that your bed is reserved only for sleep. If you can’t sleep, resist the urge to lie in bed awake, as this can inadvertently create an association between the bed and being awake. Instead, find a calming activity to engage in until you feel sleepy.

By adopting healthy sleep habits, thought patterns, and seeking professional guidance, you can improve your sleep and your overall well-being. Contact us today to learn more about our sleep therapy treatment

6500 Seven Locks Road Suite 206
Cabin John, MD 20818

© 2022 DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions