Dark mornings can disrupt your usual sleeping patterns (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)
It’s a sluggish time of year.
It’s getting cold, the mornings are dark, everything is telling you to stay in bed wrapped up in your cosy duvet.
Hibernation season can be really comforting, but it can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. You might find yourself struggling to wake up and feel refreshed in the mornings, or feeling especially tired in the afternoons.
The impacts of poor sleep and early morning fatigue are wide-ranging. It can effect your physical and mental health, and even your skin and eye health.
Roshni Patel is an eye expert and optometrist at Lenstore, and she has suggested some tips for waking up and feeling energised even when it’s dark outside:
‘With winter almost here, many of us will be struggling to wake up in the dark each morning now that the sun isn’t rising until 7:25 am.,’ says Roshni. ‘There are some ways you can prepare your eyes for the day and reduce the look of tiredness.’
A simple splash of water
‘Simply splashing both warm and cold water on your eyes will not only help you wake up,’ says Roshni, ‘but the warm water will help open up your pores on the skin around your eyes and give a more youthful glow to your eyes, whilst cold water can then close your pores and prevent dirt and makeup irritating your skin.’
Use a cold compress
If you do have more time in the morning, Roshni suggest applying a cold compress as she says it can really help to reduce a puffy look around your eyes.
‘The temperature of the compress reduces inflammation and swelling by lowering the blood flow,’ she adds. ‘The cold compress should be placed over closed eyes for a few minutes.’
Massage and eye exercises
‘Another way to reduce the look and feel of tired eyes is by gently massaging them with a palming technique,’ says Roshni.
‘This is where you place your palms over your eyes, allowing your fingers to overlap on your forehead. Taking deep breaths, hold this position for a few seconds.’
Roshni says this will this give your eyes a needed rest before getting up.
‘Your deep breathing will also increase the amount of oxygen reaching your skin and eyes to give a healthier look,’ she says.
Roshni also says practicing eye exercises can help tighten the skin in just a few minutes – giving them a healthier look.
‘Exercises can range from creating a figure of eight with your eyes to moving them side to side as well as up and down,’ she says.
How sleep impacts mental health
‘We know that sleep can impact our cognitive function. If we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, concentration will be impaired, and this can also impact our memory and ability to make good decisions. In addition, lack of sleep can make our reactions slower, and we are also more easily overstimulated. This can make demanding tasks more difficult and possibly dangerous.
Lack of sleep tends to make us less tolerant if we can’t concentrate. This can make relationships feel strained. People often feel like they need to be alone and are less likely to socialise if they don’t feel well-rested. This can lead to isolation and poor mental health.
Most people go through times of having poor sleep, sometimes due to having good times, other times due to stress. We can cope with the odd night of bad sleep but the accumulative effect can cause problems.’
Suzanna Guest, occupational psychologist
Ultimately, ensuring you are getting enough sleep is key.
Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep each night, and you should try to wake up at the same time each day – as well as having a regular bedtime schedule.
So, how do you create a healthy bedtime schedule that will help you get enough sleep and feel energised during the dark winter months?
Lisa Artis, sleep expert at The Sleep Charity shares her insight when it comes to creating your ideal autumn evening routine:
Get the room temperature right
Temperature is key when it comes to sleep quality. Lisa says making sure your body is comfortable as you begin to wind down for the evening will help you drift off quickly and prevent you from waking due to feeling too cold or too stuffy.
Antonio Dengra, CEO at Rointe, advises: ‘The optimum temperature for a comfortable home is 21 degrees – anything above this can make for a stuffy living environment.’
Take a warm bath or shower
A great way to begin your evening routine, once your home is the correct temperature, is to take a nice warm soak – especially during the cooler autumn months.
‘Have a warm bath before heading to bed to gently warm the body, leaving you feeling relaxed and sleepy,’ suggests Lisa. ‘Why not make yourself a nice warm, milky drink to enjoy too?”
Richard Roberts, director at Sanctuary Bathrooms also adds: ‘Unwinding in a hot bath or shower before bed can help you have a better night’s sleep, as the warm water relaxes the body, relieves stress and reduces tension.
‘Avoid bathing straight before bed. Instead, enjoy a warm bath at least 90 minutes before you hit the pillow to allow your body temperature to cool and regulate your circadian rhythms, making you feel sleepy.’
Maintain the perfect body temperature
After your body has begun to wind down, it’s vital to maintain our ideal temperature to increase sleepiness.
If you tend to find yourself yawning throughout the morning, it can indicate poor sleep quality as a result of being too warm or too cold, so establishing the right temperature in your sleep routine is key. One way to ensure this is by choosing the right mattress.
‘Take a closer look at your bed – one that’s a season or two past its prime can seriously affect night-time rest and daytime energy levels, so if your sleep is suffering it may be time to replace your mattress,’ says Lisa.
Make your bedroom the perfect sanctuary
Not only does your mattress impact your sleep quality, but so does the general bedroom setting. Creating a space that you look forward to entering as you prepare for bed is crucial.
In the autumn months, try to add some touches which will help elevate the cosiness of your bedroom and tuck away any clutter to encourage relaxation.
‘When it comes to choosing a bed, opt for something that makes a statement but also has an element of luxury so that you’ll look forward to climbing in it at the end of the day,’ says Jonathan Warren, director at bed specialist, Time4Sleep.
‘Your bed should be a focal point so, where possible, position it in the centre of the room. Adding accessories such as throws and extra cushions will leave it looking plush and inviting too.
‘Try to keep your bedroom clutter-free and avoid throwing items such as clothes or bags on your bed – a storage bed is a great way to make tidying easier, so you can ensure your bedroom is a serene and calming place to relax before bed.’
Lisa adds: ‘Keep the bedroom a sanctuary to help promote better sleep. It should be a space for calm and relaxation, so spend time making it a place you truly want to be.’
Choose the right window dressing
Sleeping with little to no light is very important when it comes to the quality of your sleep. Plus, blinds and curtains do a great job at keeping the cold out and the cosy warmth inside.
‘Be considerate with bedroom lighting when it is dark outside,’ says Lisa.
‘Darkness stimulates the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, so make sure to keep lighting ambient or at a low level to ensure this isn’t suppressed before heading to sleep.
‘Overnight, use well-lined curtains or a blackout blind to stop any unnecessary light from waking you up.’
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