14 Tips to Optimize Your Winter Sleep Habits

Want to enhance your winter wellness? It all starts with sleep!

By: Lexy Parsons

Daylight saving time has come and gone, meaning our days are shorter, our nights are longer, and the air is colder — a constant reminder that winter is upon us. While the winter season is full of cozy recipes and holiday cheer, this chilly season isn’t always merry and bright! The change in temperature, reduced daylight, and holiday-related stress can impact our sleep quality and duration, making it challenging to get a good night’s sleep.

However, don’t let this be the reason for your winter blues. With a little know-how, you can optimize your sleep habits during the colder months to ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Read on to learn how the season change affects our sleep and the 10 best research-backed winter sleep hacks!

RELATED: 6 Daily Habits to Support Mental Health During Colder Weather

How The Season Change Affects Our Sleep

First, why does winter’s arrival affect our sleep? Here are some factors to consider:

Less Daylight

Research has shown that the amount of natural light we are exposed to plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm. As days become shorter and our exposure to natural light diminishes, our sleep-wake cycle can become disrupted. We see this with melatonin, our sleep hormone. If out of sync, its peak secretion can occur at the wrong times, leading to difficulties falling asleep and waking up on time.

Temperature Changes

Colder nights can make it challenging to maintain an optimal sleep environment, impacting our ability to fall and stay asleep. This is a two-fold issue! If your bedroom is too cold, you may wake up in the middle of the night as your body struggles to maintain its ideal sleep temperature. However, if you amp up the heat, it can lead to dry and stuffy air, which can cause less restorative sleep and lead to sinus congestion or dry skin and throat. 

Seasonal Stress

The holiday season can introduce stress, anxiety, and disrupted routines, all of which can negatively impact sleep. Things such as financial pressures, social obligations, and travel stress can make it hard to fall or stay asleep. Not to mention, the disruption to our regular routine, which may include late nights, increased coffee or alcohol intake, and indulging in sweet treats.

RELATED: Holiday Self-Care Survival Guide: 20 Tips to Stay Sane During The Holidays

Dietary Changes

Speaking of diet, the winter season is often associated with holiday feasting and irregular eating patterns. Increasing our sugar consumption, eating too late at night, and not eating enough nutrient-dense foods are some factors that may contribute to sleep disturbances. 

Reduced Movement

While not always the case, cold winter weather often contributes to a sedentary lifestyle — which is not so great for our sleep health (or overall well-being). If we’re moving less, we’re at an increased risk for a variety of adverse health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, increased feelings of anxiety or depression, and various sleep problems.

14 Winter Sleep Hacks For Better Sleep All Season

Now that we understand how winter can disrupt our sleep, let’s explore some research-backed winter sleep hacks to help you achieve better sleep all season long.

#1 Adjust Your Bedroom Temp

Research has shown that a cooler room temperature — typically around 60-67°F — is ideal if you’re looking to optimize your sleep. Based on research, this cooler environment has been shown to regulate your circadian rhythm, which helps to promote melatonin production and reduce restlessness during sleep. 

#2 Try Mindfulness Meditation Before Bed

Pressing play on a mindfulness meditation before bed can be a powerful tool for improving sleep quality. Research suggests that meditation (mindfulness meditation, in particular) can lead to significant improvements in sleep, showing reduced sleep disturbances and improved overall sleep quality. Shown to help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation, you’ll want to add this simple stress-relieving sleep hack to your winter sleep regime.

Not sure where to start? Here are some FitOn meditations to help you wind down and drift off:

RELATED: The Life-Changing Benefits of Yoga Nidra For Sleep

#3 Diffuse Sleep-Supporting Aromatherapy Blends

Try making a sleep-soothing aromatherapy blend with essential oils like lavender and chamomile. Shown to improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances, diffusing these essential oils can create a calming and soothing atmosphere that promotes restful sleep.

#4 Add Sleep Supporting Snacks

If you find yourself feeling hungry before bed and in need of a light snack, consider reaching for sleep-supporting snack options like pistachios, walnuts, Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds, or bananas. 

Rich in nutrients like protein, tryptophan, and magnesium, which help to increase satiety, enhance the production of melatonin, and calm the body, these foods can make a significant difference in your sleep quality and duration.

#5 But Avoid Eating Too Late at Night

Try to avoid late-night eating too close to bedtime — especially heavy meals that are spicy or high in fat. While not all evening snacks are bad (as mentioned above), it’s important to be mindful of timing and meal choices. Some foods can cause discomfort and indigestion, leading to poor sleep quality. Plus, allowing your body sufficient time to digest your last meal before bedtime can help you enjoy a peaceful night’s slumber.

#6 Ground Down With An Evening Yoga or Stretching Routine

Whether it’s rolling out your yoga mat for a restorative stretch or adding in a little mobility work to relax your muscles and ease your mind, engaging in a mindfulness movement routine before bed is a favorable sleep habit to adopt. Shown to slow the heart rate, ease stress, and help release physical tension, engaging in a calming evening yoga or stretching routine can be a simple and soothing winter sleep practice.

#7 Power Down Your Devices in The Evening

If your bedtime routine includes scrolling through Instagram, binge-watching Hulu, or finishing up work from bed, you’re not doing your sleep any favors! Due to the emission of blue light, the use of electronics before bedtime can suppress the production of melatonin and interfere with the circadian rhythm. To optimize your winter sleep regime, try to limit screen time a few hours before bed. Or, at the very least, if you’re using electronics at night, make sure to wear blue light-blocking glasses!

#8 Breathe Your Way to Better Sleep

Between alternate nasal breathing, and simply breathing for longevity, more and more people are discovering the power of breath. Maybe you listen to a FitOn breathwork session, guide yourself through a self-led practice (like cyclical sigh breathing or box breathing), or simply close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. No matter the technique, breathing techniques can play a vital role in calming the mind and promoting restful sleep. This is especially important during the winter months, when holiday stress is at its peak.

Here are some guided FitOn breathing practices to get you started:

RELATED: Discover The Power of Breath: A Proven Method to Ease Anxiety

#9 Optimize Your Morning Lighting

Exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning has been shown to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and contribute to improved sleep. Not able to get outside? To combat reduced daylight exposure, consider using bright artificial lighting in the morning, such as a dawn simulator alarm clock like Hatch.

#10 Stay Consistent With Your Sleep Schedule

One of the easiest things you can do to optimize your cold-weather sleep schedule is to stay consistent with your bedtime and wake time. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that individuals with consistent sleep schedules experienced improved sleep quality and reduced sleep disturbances.

If that weren’t reason enough, new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that staying consistent with your sleep routine can even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and benefit heart health!

#11 Sip on Sleepy Tea

Looking for a natural sleep aid? Various herbal teas — like chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, and lemon balm — have been found to encourage a more restful sleep, helping to combat common sleep problems such as anxiety, racing thoughts, and mental alertness. Enjoy a warming cup with a drizzle of honey and a splash of oat or almond milk for a soothing and slightly indulgent winter sleep drink.

#12 Take an Epsom Salt Bath

Soaking in an Epsom salt bath before bed is a relaxing and restorative way to promote sleep during the cool months of winter. Epsom salt contains naturally occurring magnesium, a well-studied mineral shown to play an important role in promoting relaxation, lowering stress, and improving sleep quality.

To reap the benefits of this bedtime ritual, simply dissolve Epsom salt in warm bathwater and end your day with a soothing soak. You can add a few drops of lavender essential oil or even press play on a FitOn guided meditation before slipping into the tub for the ultimate R&R experience.

RELATED: Does Epsom Salt Really Work For Muscle Aches?

#13 Keep Your Room Dark 

We talked about the importance of sleep temperature, but what about sleep lighting? Numerous studies have shown that light exposure during sleep (whether from bedroom lights, street lights, or electronic devices) can negatively impact melatonin levels and, thus, the quality of sleep. To ensure that your sleep is undisturbed, consider wearing a sleep mask, (which also feels like self-care) or, for a more costly solution, invest in blackout curtains.

#14 Combat Winter Dryness With A Humidifier

Dry winter air can lead to dry skin, nasal congestion, and throat irritation — all symptoms that run the risk of waking you up and disturbing your sleep. The good news is that you can optimize your winter sleep environment by using a humidifier! Shown to reduce discomfort during sleep by improving humidity levels and moisturizing the skin, nose, and mouth, the addition of a humidifier is a simple bedroom hack. 

Snooze Without Worry This Winter

While winter may bring its own set of sleep challenges, these simple research-backed strategies can help optimize your cold-weather sleep habits and support your winter wellness. From sipping on sleepy tea to soaking in a soothing Epsom salt bath to enjoying a sleep snack and exposing yourself to some daily sunshine, you can enjoy better quality sleep all season long. Here’s to a restorative winter season!