Are Humans Meant to Hibernate?
Do humans need more sleep during the winter months? It certainly seems that way, especially if you’re struggling to get through this time of year feeling rested enough to say “Happy Holidays”… However, experts say our sleep needs don’t change between the seasons. Then why are we more tired during the colder months? And what can we do about it?
Winding Your Biological Clock
Researchers say that a main reason for this increased sleepiness has to do with an imbalance in our sleep cycles, and specifically, the master sleep hormone, melatonin. When it gets dark, our bodies begin producing melatonin to help us fall asleep. During the winter, when the nights are longer, many people experience an increase in melatonin production earlier in the day, which can throw off sleep cycles—resulting in more daytime sleepiness. The good news is, there are several key steps you can take to help reset your body’s natural rhythms and sleep cycles. These measures can help ensure that you get to bed at the right time, sleep more deeply, and have more energy during the day.
- Brighten Your Day—Increasing exposure to bright natural light and artificial light during the winter can help mimic an earlier sunrise and a later sunset…essentially giving you a more extended day. This can support melatonin balance and help you stay energized.
- Eat for Energy—Emphasize low-sugar foods, as well as brightly colored vegetables that provide an abundance of phytonutrients and fiber to support energy. You can also include nutrients such as B vitamins and D3—these work to optimize natural energy production and overall vitality.
- Find Your Perfect Exercise—Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong are excellent practices that can support higher energy levels, deeper sleep, as well as immunity, brain health, and overall wellness.
- Balance Sleep Cycles with Targeted Supplements—Some experts recommend taking a small amount of melatonin in the evening before bed to help maintain healthy sleep cycles. A small amount of melatonin at bedtime can allow you to fall asleep at the right time and sleep more soundly, so you wake up with more energy.
Another supplement that can help balance sleep cycles is pure honokiol, an active extract derived from Magnolia bark. Pure honokiol offers numerous powerful benefits, including lowering cortisol, and promoting more restful sleep. When cortisol levels are lower in the evening, melatonin levels can raise naturally to support optimal sleep/wake rhythms.
In essence, melatonin is the reset button for our circadian rhythms, the body’s internal clock system that influences everything from cellular health to hormone signaling, and much more. Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant, immune support, and master rejuvenator. Keeping levels balanced can support proper sleep cycles, and directly benefit numerous vital areas of health.
Proper sleep and vital energy are some of our most valuable assets for optimal wellness. With simple measures including the right supplementation, we can support balanced sleep cycles and greater vitality, not just during the winter— but all year long.