are humans meant to sleep more in the winter?
Questions And Answers

Is It Normal To Sleep More In The Winter?

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Louise Carter

Making it through the winter months isn’t always easy. Although the human body shouldn’t need additional sleep in the winter, lower temperatures can adversely affect our energy levels.

As sleep-wake cycles follow our circadian rhythms, we feel more awake when the sun is out and sleepy when it’s dark. Limited access to the sun and the early onset of darkness during the winter means the brain will frequently be convinced it’s time to sleep.

Cold weather will also lead to changes in diet and lifestyle. You’re likelier to eat heavy, comforting meals that leave you feeling sluggish, get less exercise, and layer up whenever you go outdoors.

This additional clothing and lack of sun can lead to a vitamin D3 deficiency. Keep track of your mood because many people are adversely affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)

Eat healthily, use dietary supplements, nap, and get as much daylight as possible. Consider supplementing sun exposure with artificial light therapy.

Why am I More Tired in the Winter?

While some people relish the winter and enjoy time away from the harsh rays of the summer sun, many consider the winter months something to be endured.

When the days are shorter and the temperature falls, our moods and energy levels often drop.

Why do I want to sleep more in the winter?” It’s common to feel lethargic in the winter, struggling to find the energy to pursue activities we usually enjoy.

If you don’t have hypothermia (a state of extreme cold in which the body loses heat faster than it can replace it), you have a straightforward case of winter fatigue.

There are many reasons for winter fatigue, with physical and psychological explanations.

are bamboo sheets cold in winter?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If the winter provokes feelings of depression, a lack of enjoyment in life, and a lack of energy and vigor, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)

These symptoms usually manifest after the fall, when days grow shorter and colder.

The Lancet describes SAD as “a form of recurrent depressive or bipolar disorder, with episodes that vary in severity.”

While SAD isn’t considered a diagnosable mental illness, it’s recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

Depression and insomnia are often correlated, so you won’t get quality sleep at night if you have SAD. This can lead to chronic fatigue, creating a vicious circle that continues to drain your energy.

Circadian Rhythms

The human body is governed by circadian rhythms, which the sun influences. Our bodies are instinctively driven to wake up when the sun rises, as it’s light outside. We feel tired when darkness falls.

It makes sense that we’ll be sleepier in the winter. The sun will rise later in the morning and go down increasingly early in the evening. Less access to sunlight means more time spent in darkness.

Whenever we’re exposed to darkness, the brain automatically releases melatonin, which encourages drowsiness and the desire to sleep.

As we spend more time in dim lighting in winter, melatonin becomes almost ever-present until the spring. This also explains why getting up in the morning feels like such a hardship.

Why is waking up harder in the winter? The answer revolves around the fact that the sun hasn’t yet risen when your alarm sounds, so your body doesn’t feel ready to start the day.

Lack of Vitamin D3

You’re unlikely to have exposed skin when you venture outdoors in the winter. It’s natural to wrap up warm during the colder months, layering up with coats, scarves, gloves, and hats.

This means the sun’s rays can’t penetrate the skin. This, in turn, means your body will create significantly less vitamin D3 than usual, as this is produced as a chemical reaction to sunlight.

When the body produces Vitamin D3, mitochondria (organelles in the cells of the human body) increase chemical reactions in the body and encourage the production of energy.

Fatigue and lethargy are common symptoms of a vitamin D3 deficiency.

Changes To Diet And Lifestyle

Many of us rely on comfort foods during the winter to cheer up our days.

eBioMedicine explains how favored foods, especially those dense in carbohydrates, provide the brain with a short-term boost by releasing dopamine and serotonin.

Unfortunately, these rewards are purely psychological and only work in the short term.

Skipping fresh fruits and vegetables and lighter meals in favor of heavy, warming foods can strain the digestive system and make us tired.

Follow a balanced diet during the colder months of the year, with sufficient emphasis on protein.

Introduce supplements into your daily routine, too. We’ve discussed the importance of vitamin D3.

Also, consider vitamin C supplements to bolster your immune system and prevent respiratory infections. These conditions drain energy and magnesium, easing aches and pains from pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries that may flare up in cold weather. 

Artificial Heating

Finding the right temperature in the home during winter can be a tightrope. You’ll likely need to light a fireplace, rely on central heating or storage heaters, or combine both approaches.

While the cold can tire us out, the same applies to excessive heat. If you get too hot, the mind and body become dehydrated. As your body loses electrolytes, you’ll grow sleepy and sluggish.

Artificial heat sources that are too high can also send the body into a mild panic. You’ll sweat as the body attempts to cool itself down, which requires an expenditure of already-drained energy levels.

When the heat provided by these sources subsides, you’ll also become increasingly exhausted. When a cold chill re-emerges, you’ll likely want to sleep immediately.

Should I Sleep with A Window Open in The Winter?

We’ve explored how moving from a state of warmth to coolness will make you sleepy, so does sleeping in the cold make you more tired?

The answer is yes, which makes sleeping with an open window during winter potentially beneficial.

If you open a window in your bedroom 1 hour before bed – closing the bedroom door so heat from the rest of the house will not escape – you’re likelier to enter a chilled sleeping space.

This temperature change will help you get a better night’s sleep.

Are Humans Meant To Sleep More in The Winter?

Humans don’t hibernate, and we shouldn’t need to sleep more during the winter.

There’s no biological reason we need to spend more time in bed other than feeling tired more often and craving additional rest. Listen to your body and sleep if you consider it necessary.

How Can I Reduce Winter Fatigue?

Feeling constantly exhausted during the winter can be frustrating.

The demands placed upon us at work and home won’t necessarily subside just because it is cold outside, and sluggishness in the body and mind can make it hard to maintain.

There are remedies for tiredness during the coldest months, like drinking coffee or energy drinks, but these only provide short-term, artificial energy spikes.

Lifestyle changes can make it much easier to cope with winter fatigue and remain alert.

Waking Earlier

Maintaining a reliable sleeping and waking cycle during the winter is vital, so ensure you head to bed and wake up at a similar time each day.

During the warmer months, it’s common to sleep past the breaking of dawn and start your day with the sun at its peak. With natural daylight at a premium during the winter, embrace all available sunshine.

You may need to wake up while it’s still dark outside during the winter, but even if this is the case, consider sacrificing an extra 30 minutes of your evening to get up even earlier.

Moderate Exercise

The idea of bundling up with blankets and hiding from the winter chill on the sofa rather than heading to the gym may be appealing, but get some exercise during the colder seasons.

Jogging for several miles or playing sports may be out of the question due to inclement weather, but think about other ways to get active.

Consider walking to the grocery store rather than driving if it’s safe or just strolling around the block.

If you’re restricted by snow or other extreme weather, you can still exercise at home – try some yoga stretches or walking up and down the stairs.

The more you move, the more energized you’ll feel in the aftermath.

why do I want to sleep more in the winter?

Naps

If you struggle to keep your eyes open during idle time in the winter, take a nap.

Sometimes, resting for 20 or 30 minutes in the afternoon can provide a welcome energy boost that gets you through the evening.

Be careful when taking these naps, as colder temperatures can encourage you to sleep longer than you planned. Set an alarm and ensure you only doze for a short period.

If you drift into a deeper sleep, you’ll experience sleep inertia upon waking, likely feeling disoriented. If you oversleep during the day, you may also disrupt your sleep cycle and struggle to rest in the evening.

Illumination and Light Therapy

Darkness promotes the release of serotonin, so keep the lights on as much as possible during the winter. A dark and dimly lit room may feel cozy, but this illumination level will affect your energy in the winter.

Introducing light therapy into your daily routine may give you more energy and deal with SAD, especially in the morning. Light therapy is available in 3 forms:

  • 40Hz Passive Light Therapy. White LED light is flashed in the eyes at 40 flashes per second. This therapy is safe on the eyes and stimulates the brain, reducing fatigue and foggy thinking.
  • Infrared Light Therapy. Light penetrates the skin and creates heat absorbed by muscles and tissue. This light therapy can improve circulation in winter and reduce fatigue.
  • Light Box Therapy. Sitting beside a light box for around 30 minutes. The illumination intensity resets your circadian rhythms and convinces you that it’s lighter and sunnier outside.

It’s common to feel tired in the winter, but you don’t need to give in to fatigue and put your life on hold until spring. Make lifestyle adjustments to continue feeling energized during the coldest months.