- Consistency is the foundation of a healthy sleep routine.
- Winter itself can be challenging for sleep routines. The short days and long nights of the season increase daily melatonin production.
- Be gentle with yourself as you use these strategies to bring energy, calm, rest, and a sense of peace into your life.
There’s so much we don’t know and can’t control about what will happen over the next weeks and months. Let’s focus today on what we can control, and some simple, effective steps we can take to protect our sleep and maintain the physical and emotional energy we need to weather a difficult season.
Right now, you might be facing a tough, uncertain winter. Here are four realistic, flexible—and, most important, highly effective—steps you can take to sleep well and maintain your energy during another difficult Covid season.
Let your sleep routine help protect your emotional energy
How many times have you heard me say this: "Consistency is the foundation of a healthy sleep routine." The more regular your sleep schedule, you’ll fall asleep more easily and rest more soundly over the night. You’ll be sharper and have more energy throughout the day. And you’ll strengthen the very circadian rhythms that keep your sleep-wake schedule on track and keep your body functioning at its best.
Don’t overlook your sleep routine as a powerful mood protector. The consistency of your sleep has a tremendous impact on your mood. Sleeping on a regular schedule that’s aligned with your chronotype can help you stay positive, grounded, and emotionally healthy through challenging times like the one we’re in.
I’ve written in-depth about some of the latest research on how sleep routines can affect mood and emotional health. Here are some key takeaways:
- Irregular sleep routines are as significant a risk factor for depression as being sleep deprived, according to research.
- Inconsistent sleep schedules lead to sleep debt, which raises risks for depression and anxiety and hinders our ability to manage stress effectively
- Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake routine according to your chronotype helps maintain circadian rhythms that affect mood and emotional regulation
Don’t forget, winter itself can be challenging for sleep routines. The short days and long nights of the season increase daily melatonin production, which makes us feel more tired and sluggish. Hormones produced during daylight hours, including serotonin, decrease, with less of this sleep-and-mood-boosting hormone produced during the dark winter months. All the more reason to double-down on the consistency of your sleep schedule over the next few months.
Here’s how you can focus on your home sleep environment to enhance your resting energy:
Keep bedrooms clean. I get it—the last thing you probably want to do right now is clean your bedroom. But it is a simple, tangible way to have an immediate and direct impact on how well you and your family sleep this winter. Keeping bedrooms free of dirt, dust, germs, and debris helps avoid irritating allergies that interfere with nightly rest. If you and your family don’t have allergies, a clean bedroom will still protect you from sleep-disruptive irritations to the skin and help you breathe better while you rest.
Maintain a sleep-friendly indoor climate. We are biologically hard-wired to lower core body temperature as part of progressing toward sleep. Keeping things too warm in your bedroom—and in the microclimate of your bed itself–can interfere with that important drop in body temperature, and keep you awake.
Lift up your eating energy (and supercharge your mental focus) with intermittent fasting. Why is now the time to consider a shift to intermittent fasting? It will boost your mental and physical energy, keep your immune system primed to fight illness, strengthen circadian rhythms that have a major influence over your sleep and your mood. Plus, it’s an excellent aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
Use short bursts of movement to keep your energy flowing consistently throughout the day. Our daily energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, even in the best of times, when we’re well-positioned to make choices that enhance our energy and health.
Finally, along with self-care, self-compassion is deeply important right now. These past couple of years have been tough on us all. Be gentle with yourself as you use these strategies to bring energy, calm, rest, and a sense of peace into your life.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM
The Sleep Doctor™