Maintain your work/life/sleep balance over the coming months and boost your energy levels on dark, dingy days with our eight-step guide to winter wellbeing.
November brings lots of things to look forward to. Chillier mornings and evenings herald a spot of novelty slipper shopping and some sneaky tinkering with the thermostat, there’s Christmas plans to be made, gift lists to be drafted and pubs and restaurants begin sprouting those mini Christmas trees with tempting festive lunch menus fanned out beneath, ready for the influx of the work ‘Christmas Dinner’.
So far so good, I hear you cry. But with so much to look forward to and exciting preparations to be made at this time of year, why do many of us struggle with sluggishness and getting out of bed in the morning?
For many of us, that extra hour we ‘gained’ at the end of October could still be having a knock on effect on our wellbeing, just when the evenings are getting ever darker and that previously mild desire to close the curtains and get your onesie on as soon as darkness falls becomes increasingly urgent.
No, Circadian Rhythms are not a ‘70s funk band from Basingstoke. Your circadian rhythm is a complex pattern of physical, mental and behavioural changes that typically follow a 24-hour cycle, influenced by your environment and most notably, exposure to light and darkness.
The logic behind Daylight Savings and how it affects our sleep cycles
When daylight hours become increasingly shorter with the onset of winter, a discrepancy can arise between our body clocks – our programmed routine - and our actual sleep pattern in relation to daylight hours. Historically, before the invention of electricity people typically went to bed when it got dark outside and got up with the rising sun. Artificial light allowed us to extend the working day and spend more quality time with family and friends, but for the majority who work full time during the day, it can mean staying awake for many hours after darkness falls and getting up to leave for work before it is light outside. There is a degree of conflict between this pattern and how our brains and bodies want us to behave, and means that we are more likely to suffer some degree of sleep deficit.
NHS Choices warns that prolonged sleep deprivation can contribute to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes and can reduce life expectancy. With all its perks, modern life can have a profound effect on sleep quantity and quality. Many of us work longer hours and take extra work home with us, blurring the lines between work and home life. We have the largest library of information in the history of mankind (the internet) at our fingertips 24/7, but sometimes the temptation to watch funny animal videos into the small hours can just be too hard to resist. Keeping your smart phone or tablet switched on next to your bed means your brain can never really switch off and rest and some experts believe that our 24/7 switched on society could even be changing the way our brains function.
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