January in Toronto can be a little daunting, I find. The holidays are over and winter bites, but one of the things I love about the first few days after New Year is the subtle lengthening of the afternoon. We start to leave behind the long hours of darkness, and I start to feel less like a bear who can’t find a good place to hibernate. I’ve found that many people experience sleep difficulties in winter. Dull, grey days that morph into dense nightfall in the middle of the afternoon can make us feel as if we never fully woke up in the first place. So when bed time comes around, we don’t feel ready to sleep. Long cold nights make it harder to get out and about, or to be active at home: it’s so tempting to curl up on the sofa and watch t.v.
There’s lots of advice available on how to improve sleep quality: here are a few tips that I personally find useful and easy to do. (They work for jetlag too!)
1. Wake your brain up with a “sun-shower” every day. Walk outside, lift your face to the sky and take a few breaths. If you can’t get outside, stand or sit by a window. Lack of daylight affects our mood and energy levels. Sometimes it causes Seasonal Affective Disorder which will affect your sleep health.
2. Do regular moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise during the day. Exercise should not be done too close to bed time.
3. Make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillow that support your spine in good postural alignment, in the position you prefer to sleep in (on your back or side).
4. Do some form of relaxation if you feel stressed. There are many forms of relaxation, the simplest is to focus on long, slow deep breathing.
5. Avoid looking at bright screens within 2-3 hours of bed time. For more information see the article below.
Blue light has a dark side. health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side