Have you ever noticed the change in your sleeping pattern with the change in seasons? You may want to sleep more in winter as compared to summer. This may be due to seasonal sleeping, which leads to changes in your sleeping pattern due to variations in season and other environmental factors. In today’s fast-paced world, where people are caught up in the constant hustle of the rat race, the significance of sleep is often sidelined, leading to unforeseen health risks, such as obesity and lifestyle disease. We spoke to our expert Dr Lalitha Reddy, Ex – Professor and Head of the Department, Radiology, Ex Vice President, TeleMedicine Society, Telangana, and Advisor, Evolv28, who explained seasonal sleeping and complications of sleep deprivation.
What Is Seasonal Sleeping
“Seasonal sleeping refers to variations in sleep patterns that occur in response to changes in the seasons. These changes are often influenced by environmental factors, such as daylight duration, temperature, and weather conditions”, informed Dr Reddy.
Seasonal variations in sleep can affect the quantity and quality of sleep that individuals experience during different times of the year. According to a study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, people sleep less deeply in the autumn and have longer REM slumber in the winter than in the summer.
Common Features Of Seasonal Sleeping
Dr Reddy listed the features of seasonal sleeping as follows:
- Sleep Duration: The amount of daylight in a day can impact the duration of sleep. Winter is a time when days are shorter, resulting in longer nights and, consequently, longer sleep periods.
- Circadian Rhythm Shifts: The body’s internal circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep-wake cycles, can be affected by changes in natural light. Reduced daylight during the winter months can lead to shifts in the circadian rhythm, potentially affecting the timing of sleep onset and wakefulness.
- Mood and Energy Levels: Seasonal changes, particularly in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can impact mood and energy levels. SAD is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months, and one of its symptoms is oversleeping or increased fatigue.
- Temperature Preferences: Temperature variations between seasons can influence sleep quality. Some individuals may find it easier to sleep in cooler temperatures, which are more common in winter.
- Light Exposure: Reduced exposure to natural light during the winter months, especially in regions with pronounced seasonal changes, can affect the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This can contribute to changes in sleep patterns.
Impact Of Sleep Deprivation On Mental Health
Mental health takes a toll as disrupted sleep triggers anxiety and emotional ups and downs.
“When sleep is consistently lacking, it disrupts the balance of brain chemicals that control mood. This imbalance can make people more vulnerable to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Also, the connection between sleep and mental health is highlighted by how sleep affects emotional control”, said Dr Reddy. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to react more strongly emotionally and struggle to handle stress, making mental health challenges more likely.
Complications Of Sleep Deprivation
Our natural sleep patterns play a crucial role in how we think and feel, affecting not just our personal lives, but also our professional productivity. A range of detrimental outcomes, such as health-related issues, lower quality of life, and financial expenses, are linked to poor sleep quality, which includes interrupted or non-restorative sleep, as per HHS Public Access.
When sleep is compromised, it can make tasks that require skill more difficult, as the brain struggles to consolidate memories during rest.
Decision-making abilities decline, and creative problem-solving becomes more difficult due to limitations on mental bandwidth.
Not only does inadequate sleep affect mental wellness, but even physical wellness can also be significantly affected by inadequate sleep. Hormone secretions, the body’s circadian rhythms and other reparative and rejuvenating processes also get affected negatively.
Expert Take On Tackling Sleep Issues
“Busy lives, filled with work pressures, technology interruptions, lengthy commutes and unhealthy lifestyles often challenge the pursuit of healthy sleep. The root of this struggle often lies in outdated beliefs that dismiss sleep as a sign of laziness or lack of endurance. This mindset fosters a strange pride in staying up late”, said Dr Reddy.
She added, “Changing this perspective by viewing sleep as a foundation for top-notch performance, acknowledged by high achievers, can help break cultural stigmas. When leaders share how adequate rest, not endless work hours, led to their career breakthroughs, it encourages organisations to prioritise sleep. Treating sleep with the same importance as meeting deadlines or achieving fitness goals also empowers individuals to take control of their schedules.”[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by a registered healthcare professional and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult your expert if you are dealing with sleep issues to manage your health condition.]