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Why You Need More Sleep in Winter

On a good day, we don’t want to rise with the chickens. In the winter months, it gets even trickier. Sleeping all morning can become a habit really fast. But, it’s not because you’re lazy. Find out why we want to sleep more when the weather turns cold.

This has less to do with being tired and more to do with our bodily rhythms and inner workings. It sounds ominous, but it’s actually quite simple. Our bodies know what’s good for it most of the time. There are automatic “cues” it follows to perform certain functions.

Here’s an example: When the sun streams through the window in the morning, it wakes us up. Even if we decide to cover our heads and go back to sleep, the initial reaction to the sun was to wake. Our circadian rhythms tell us that we wake with the light of the sun.

In the evening, as the sun goes down, we begin to prepare for a time of rest. Well, our bodies do. When darkness falls, everything shuts down for the night so the cells can recharge. We think it is our conscious self that is tired so we go to sleep. But, in fact, our internal clock says that the city called “us” is closing its borders for the night.

There is a set pattern to these things. Now, factor in the location in which we live. In winter, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. We see less sunlight. When the sky is darkening, the body prepares for rest. In the morning, the sun rises a little later and we want to also.

The body continues to sleep because it sees no light streaming through the window. Unfortunately we still have to rise at six o’clock in the morning for work. So, something has to get us up and out.

The science behind all of this involves serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters in the brain. Melatonin is produced when we sleep. Sleeping too much produces abnormal levels of melatonin. The more we sleep, the more we want to sleep because of the increase in this neurotransmitter.

During the summer, we experience higher serotonin levels. Serotonin is responsible for our mood. One thing that increases serotonin levels is vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by skin cells due to sunlight.

When sunlight is in short supply, our serotonin levels fall and we don’t have so much energy or so many good feelings. Some people use devices called dawn simulators to get moving in the morning. They go off on a timed schedule and increase the intensity of their light until it is time for you to wake. The light triggers the body to wake up even though it is still dark outside.

As you see being extra tired during the winter months is actually quite normal. We desire to sleep more in winter because we get less light and serotonin and more melatonin.