Finding Your Seasonal Sleep Rhythm
As we approach winter and the sun sets earlier and rises later, our circadian rhythm naturally changes as well. In our modernized world, many of us are unaware and continue on the same schedule of bedtime and waking as we have all Summer, but our bodies and brains are still tuned into the changing rhythm. Obviously our modern way of life is much different from our ancestors who farmed the land and were very aware of these changes, but this subtle shift in daylight can have a major impact on our daily life and health as the seasons change.
Fall and winter in Chinese medicine represent the changing of yang to yin and are related to the Kidneys, which are the energetic batteries in the body and are the deepest organs. During winter, the amount of sunshine (yang) decreases and the darkness (yin) increases. The temperature cools. Many people get the urge to hibernate and stay inside. I always know Fall is in full swing because I get the urge to bake and make soups. Fall and Winter are the time to conserve and replenish Kidney energy in preparation for Spring. Making changes in your diet and lifestyle to protect the kidneys during the winter is beneficial for your entire body and mind.
With the sun setting earlier now, and daylight savings time upon us, we’d like to challenge you to try increasing your awareness of this changing rhythm and alter your schedule slightly. Try the following:
- Start winding down for bed an hour earlier. About 70% of Americans are sleep deprived or experience trouble sleeping. Make the increased darkness work in your favor to try and get an extra hour of sleep.
- On sunny days, try to get at least 20 minutes of sun exposure on your hands, face, or arms. This can help keep Vitamin D levels adequate and also helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
- If you tend to get low Vitamin D levels in winter, it may be a good idea to start supplementing now. We recommend micellized Vitamin D drops for easy absorption.
- Switch your diet to more warming cooked foods like soups and stews, stir-fries, and braised foods, and steamed vegetables. Avoid a lot of cold, raw foods.
- Include warming spices in your cooking like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, garlic, and nutmeg.
- Drink hot teas instead of cold or ice water.
- Try taking warm baths at night before bed. As you cool down after the bath, it signals your body and mind to sleep. It’s also a nice way to induce relaxation after a stressful day. Try a bath with 2 cups of epsom’s salts for aching muscles.
- Try having hot water with lemon first thing in the morning. It stimulates the digestive track to facilitate a bowel movement as well as gently detoxifying the liver. It’s a great way to start the day.