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Do You Need More Sleep in Winter?

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Do You Need More Sleep in Winter?

By Allison Ford, DivineCaroline

During this time of year, itís hard to not be jealous of the various squirrels, hedgehogs, possums, chipmunks, bats, skunks, lemurs, and other small mammals that lower their body temperatures and their metabolisms for the winter, napping in their burrows until the snow goes away. Bears donít exactly hibernate, but they do spend winters in their dens, napping and caring for newborn cubs. Even some species of reptiles and amphibians hibernate, remaining in a sluggish torpor throughout the winter when thereís not enough heat to raise their body temperatures.

Humans, of course, do not hibernate, but it can feel much more difficult to get out of bed on a chilly winter morning than it does in the height of summer. Some people take this as a welcome sign that being awake during the winter is an affront to nature. Or at the very least, they assume that humans need more sleep during winter. Is that true?

The Straight Talk
We donít exactly need more sleep during the wintertime, but due to factors beyond our control, we definitely want it.

Humansí sleep and wake cycles are regulated by light. Light suppresses the production of melatonin by the brainís pineal gland. As daylight fades, the pineal gland produces more melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy. In the morning, the gland is instructed to stop producing the hormone, which aids in waking up. We feel sleepier in the winter because thereís less daylight, hence more melatonin. We wake up when itís still dark outside, before the pineal gland has been instructed to shut down, and it starts up again long before weíre actually ready to go to bed. That adds up to many lethargic mornings and evenings.

Another dirty trick that makes us want more sleep is that wintertime affords us with prime sleeping conditions. Itís dark outside and the house is cool and stillóa perfect recipe for a good nightís sleep. No wonder so many people have trouble leaving bed on a January morning.

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DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, theyíre discussing all facets of womenís lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

134 comments

+ add your own
4:03PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks.

5:03PM PDT on May 18, 2011

I live in Florida, and I can never sleep even in the winter. It's just not possible, but I know when I lived in Ohio I never wanted to get up. It's much better just to stay under the covers than to go outside in the freezing cold.

2:11PM PST on Jan 26, 2011

Winter is the perfect time to hibernate and catch up on rest =)

11:25PM PST on Jan 23, 2011

YESSS!

5:10AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

I try to have a regular sleeping time and sleep for about 7 hours.

2:25AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

I have the worst time getting up in the morning at the moment, don't seem to be able to get up before the sun rises. Though is the summer I'll wake up a 5am with no trouble :-S

10:14AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

I belive also that boddy ache is more in the winter and make some sleep more !

11:44AM PST on Jan 4, 2011

so good to stay in bed every morning in winter...

11:02AM PST on Dec 28, 2010

Thank you.

3:18AM PST on Dec 28, 2010

That explains a lot. Though for me, I can't tolerate being in bed that long because it kills my back. Now add in the fact that I can't sleep more than 4-6 hours w/o my back screaming at me, and now the weather is causing more melatonin.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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