Each season brings with it a bunch of exciting changes. Whether it's the first buds on the trees, intense sunshine, or even the first snowfall, the seasons by their very nature are signals for transition. Heck, we even have saying to remind us how Mother Nature works so we can fully appreciate the reasons behind them. After all, April showers bring May flowers.
In addition to things warming up and it being a great time to get some fresh air into our homes, the transition into Springtime reminds me of how awesome nature is at helping us humans sleep better at night.
For now, we'll skip the lengthy discussion of our circadian rhythms and how we're inherently connected to things via the sun rising and setting. We covered that topic in a previous post. Instead, I'd like to focus on how you can take advantage of each season's unique attributes in ways that'll boost the quantity and quality of sleep. Since we're well into Spring, that's where I'll start.
Here are 5 ways Spring can be your sleep cheerleader:
Fresh air: There's nothing like a fresh breeze flowing through the house to clear out the old, stale air that's been trapped inside. Plus, if there's any chance you've got mold, the clean air will dramatically improve the air quality and help relieve mold-related breathing issues. Which is a bonus since we're still in the middle of a pandemic due to a respiratory virus. We should be taking any opportunity to clear out the cobwebs in our homes and lungs. Improvements to your breathing will boost your body's oxygen intake, and promote deep sleep. Always a good thing!
The one thing you need to be mindful of, however, is seasonal allergies. Nothing ruins the fresh spring air quite like those menacing particles of pollen. If this is something you deal with, be sure to have clean bedding and pyjamas that haven't been hung on the clothesline. You also might want to wash your hair at night to rinse out any pollen that's clung to your hair during the day.
Refreshing temperature: The air this time of year is still crisp enough at night that you can crank those windows wide and let the cool breeze lower your home's temperature. This is hugely beneficial and super important to sleeping well. Without a drop in your body temperature, it's tough to stay in a state of sleep. We're physiologically wired to need a lower body temp when we sleep, so don't try to fight this one.
Letting your room cool way down at night might seem like a counter-intuitive measure, since we're so used to getting under blankets to keep us warm. But the reality is, you should need blankets. Meaning, the temp should be so low you need the covers to keep you cozy. Not sweltering hot.
Abundant daylight: Nothing kick starts your body's daily clock (circadian rhythm) like the sun coming up at a reasonable time. No more pitch black at 8am! By that time, the sun's already been up for a few hours. You'll find that soaking in natural light will naturally give you more energy, and your body will be much less groggy in the morning than during those dark winter months.
If you're someone who's always looking for a few extra hours in the day to get things done, now is the perfect time to find them. Try setting your alarm earlier and getting natural light into your eyeballs as soon as possible once you're awake. This is about the body's reaction to daylight, not a matter of getting vitamin D, so you don't need to expose your skin. You should, however, avoid wearing sunglasses so there's no filter on the soft brightness of the light.
Sunsets at a reasonable hour: Just like our bodies get super charged with energy from daylight in the morning, the same is true for powering down in the evening when we can see the gradual decrease in natural light. In Winter it can feel like you want to sleep all the time because of how quickly it gets dark and how long that darkness lingers. But Spring time is the perfect time for resetting your sleep rhythm just by making a point of being outside (or near a window) when the sun is setting. That queue sends a signal to your brain that bedtime isn't far away, and to start producing melatonin.
You're doing your body a huge favour when you allow this process to take place. It's a big contrast from the usual shock our bodies face transition-wise going from watching a bright screen (tv, phone, tablet) to lying in bed, wondering why our minds won't shut off.
Get outside, get active: Go for a walk, explore a forest, tend to your garden, or hit the road for a bike ride. Being active is never easier than during spring and early summer, when the heat isn't too over-powering and the humidity hasn't arrived yet. After a long winter and rainy period in early Spring, I was chomping at the bit to get outside and just move around. And I'm not alone. The cycling clubs are whizzing by, hikers are walking the trails, and I see gardens transforming from hours of careful tending.
These are all great ways to physically tire our bodies out so we'll be good and ready for a restful sleep. And just about any activity will do in this case. Don't worry about needing a specific fitness routine. That can feel daunting! Just get outside and move around. Then enjoy the awesome feeling of getting into bed at night and drifting off to sleep within minutes.
Bonus: Spending time in nature has been shown to significantly lower stress and improve overall health. It's incredibly rejuvenating and costs nothing. Clearing your mind and managing stress are two key components of sleeping well. And on the flip side, sleeping well plays a big role in managing stress. Improving one tends to work wonders on the other.
It's a beautiful thing and all because of Spring! Each season has it's pros and cons, and if you focus on how the season can help your cause you'll be so much farther ahead. Keep an eye out for the Summer edition of this post over the next few months to learn how to leverage the sun and heat in smart ways that'll have you sleeping like a baby.