RSU expert opinion: Should you sleep more in the darker months?
Although many of us get sleepier in the autumn and winter and want to spend more time in bed, Juris Svaža, an associate professor at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) and the Head of the Sleep Laboratory at the RSU Institute of Stomatology, believes that the darker seasons shouldn't affect our need for sleep. Svaža notes that 7 - 7,5 hours of sleep are enough for most of us.
'We aren't bears or hedgehogs who sleep through the winter. If you start to sleep longer during the days just because you have nothing to do because it is dark outside you could get fake insomnia. Sometimes people go to the doctor and complain about sleeplessness, but it turns out they actually spend too much time in bed,' says the Head of the RSU Sleep Lab.
Everyone has to stick to their own daily cycle, keeping their individual needs in mind. If six hours sleep is usually enough, you don't have to sleep eight hours in the darker months, while someone else always needs nine hours regardless of the time of year.
There are, however, good sleepers and bad sleepers. Good sleepers sleep very well at night, and can sleep another hour during the day, but poor sleepers have poorer sleep quality, and various anxieties and experiences adversely affect the quality of their sleep. 'These people should think about so-called sleep hygiene. One of the basic principles of sleep hygiene is when you keep to the same times for going to bed and waking almost every day, including the holidays,' explains the sleep specialist.
'The other very important thing - if you can't sleep, get up and do something! Tossing and turning in bed is not good - people start to think negative thoughts and enter into a vicious circle worrying about sleeping badly, being dissatisfied with the quality of sleep in the morning, and fearing sleeplessness in the evenings and so on.'
It is worth noting that it is good to dim the lights about half an hour before going to bed so that the light is calmer and in the yellow spectrum. 'This allows you to create the conditions to get your body ready to go to bed.' However, those who feel sleepy during the day in the autumn and winter should use bright lighting.