Do we actually need more sleep in the winter?
A vital part of wellbeing is sleep, and getting enough of it helps the body heal and function normally. According to a recent study, people get more REM sleep in the winter, which is an essential part of the regular sleep cycle.
To corroborate the results of this study in the broader population, more data is required. Yet, people can make efforts to encourage sound sleep during the winter, a season in which doing so may be particularly important.
Everyone requires sleep, yet everyone’s demands are different. Research is ongoing to determine what influences sleep requirements and the most effective course of action.
A recent study examined how seasonal changes in sleep patterns. The researchers discovered that REM sleep is more prevalent during the months of winter.
Human sleep study
The research team enlisted 292 patients to take part in sleep studies termed polysomnographies, which are conducted on individuals who have trouble falling or staying asleep.
The volunteers visited a specialised lab where they were instructed to go to sleep naturally, without setting an alarm, so that the duration, kind, and quality of their sleep could be observed.
Although sleep issues may have affected the results, the study’s design allowed for a sizable group to be evenly distributed throughout the year, which helped to better show variations from month to month.
Those who took sleep-related medications, those who experienced technical difficulties during the polysomnography, and participants whose REM sleep latency was greater than 120 minutes—which suggested that the initial REM sleep episode had been skipped—were excluded from the study.
There were 188 subjects left after the exclusions. The majority of their diagnoses exhibited little seasonal variation, while sleeplessness was more frequently identified as the year’s end approached.
Importance of REM sleep
Several facets of life, including physical, emotional, and mental health, are impacted by sleep. Sleep duration and quality have an impact on bodily functions like immune system, metabolism, heart health, and memory.
The several stages of sleep that people go through are all necessary for a restful night’s sleep.
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is one type of sleep. The brain is more active during REM sleep, and dreams are experienced. REM sleep is beneficial for controlling mood. Moreover, it enhances immunological performance, focus, and memory.
According to the results of this latest study, there may be seasons of the year when people experience more REM sleep.
More REM sleep in the winter
This specific study focused on variations in seasonal sleep patterns. All through the year, researchers examined the subjects’ sleep patterns. The individuals were already dealing with some sleep abnormalities, such as insomnia and sleep-related respiratory issues.
When conducting their analysis, the researchers used 188 participants. Participants were monitored while they slept using a method known as polysomnography.
Participants were encouraged by the researchers to stick to their usual bedtime routines. Alarm clocks were not allowed to be used by participants. Participants were disqualified from the study based on a few important factors, such as the usage of sleep-interfering drugs.
To Medical News Today, research author Dieter Kunz provided the following significant findings:
“In our work, we demonstrate that, in an adult population residing in an urban environment, human sleep architecture differs significantly across seasons. In a sizable population with neuropsychiatric sleep disorders, we employed polysomnography to record the various stages of sleep over the course of a full year.
According to Kunz, they discovered three intriguing findings:
- In comparison to summer, people slept an hour more during the winter.
- I had about 30 minutes more of REM sleep in the winter than the spring.
- Got 40 minutes fewer of deep sleep in the fall than the other months.
Researchers found no statistical significance in the one-hour sleep gap between the winter and summer seasons. Instead, one of their key areas of interest was the seasonal variations in REM sleep.
Get better sleep in the winter
The American Board of Sleep Medicine-certified sleep specialist Nicole Eichelberger focuses on abnormalities of the circadian rhythm, apnea, and insomnia. Eichelberger gave us some advice for getting a good night’s sleep, which included maintaining a consistent sleep routine.
Even on weekends, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, she advised.
Making a sleep-friendly environment is also beneficial.
Ensure that your bedroom is cold, quiet, and dark. Utilize supportive bedding and soft pillows, advised Eichelberger.
Restrict your screen time before bed.
It can be more difficult to fall asleep due to the blue light emitted by electronic gadgets, according to her. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Both can interfere with your sleep and make it more difficult to get enough rest, she explained.
Develop your relaxing skills.
You can relax and be ready for sleep by engaging in activities like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation, according to Eichelberger.
She continued by saying that sleep is essential for both our physical and mental health because it aids in both memory consolidation and learning as well as body recovery and repair.
Persistent sleep loss has been connected to a number of health problems, including as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, she said. “On the other side, it has been demonstrated that getting adequate sleep strengthens our immune system, lifts our mood, and improves our cognitive performance. Simply put, having enough good sleep is crucial for our overall health.
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