The changing of seasons, the dropping of temperature, the shortening of days, the starting of school: these are all small details that can affect your sleep. New research has revealed the built-in mechanism that keeps our internal clocks running through the long nights of winter, the long days of summer, and everything in between. This mechanism is a specialized and dedicated network of brain cells that synchronizes our circadian rhythm with the changing environment, and it shows an astonishing degree of flexibility.
Different People and Different Patterns
Early birds: If you find it easy to wake up in the morning and have the most energy early in the day, you are a “lark”.
Night owls: If you find it hard to wake up in the morning and feel alert and have the most energy much later in the day, you are an evening person.
Synchronize Your Body with the Seasons: adapting to the periodic patterns of nature will keep your body balanced. Many medical traditions, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, incorporate the knowledge of the circadian rhythm into their approaches in seeking a healthy balance. If at the beginning of fall, you are feeling ready to hibernate until spring, consider some of the following strategies to rebalance and enjoy the season.
Allow Yourself to Rest: with less sunlight and colder temperatures, it is natural to seek more rest and spend more time cuddling up. Rest is crucial for your health all year round and is especially important to help your body adjust to the shifting seasons.
Let the Sunshine In: since sunlight has such a powerful influence over your circadian rhythms, it is important to spend as much time as possible in natural sunlight, even during the colder weather. To stay in sync with a 24-hour cycle, the brain needs to have the input of sunlight through your eyes’ photoreceptors to send signals directly to the hypothalamus and impact your circadian rhythm.
Focus on Your Breath: like nature, the body and mind are inclined to slow during autumn and early winter. Excessive exercise and activity can contribute to imbalances and burnout during a time when the body craves rest and renewal. If you are feeling tired, slow down. By paying attention to your daily rhythms and staying grounded and in touch with nature, you can emerge refreshed and renewed with a positive perspective of the upcoming winter.