It’s important to get quality sleep all year round. But as the seasons change, if you want to get your best night’s sleep, you may also have to change your sleep habits.
But the question is: what changes do you need to make to successfully transition your sleep routine from summer to fall—and ensure you continue getting the high-quality sleep you need as we move into a new season?
Prioritize spending time outdoors
Vitamin D, which your body creates when exposed to sunlight, plays an important role in the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and promotes restful sleep. During the summer—when sunlight stretches well into the evening hours—it’s easy to get your daily dose of vitamin D.
But in the fall, when the sun sets earlier, you have a much smaller window to get the sun exposure you need. “The decrease in daylight during these months can lead to a decrease in the body’s melatonin production,” says Lauri Leadley, clinical sleep educator and President of Arizona-based Valley Sleep Center.
That’s why, if you want to continue to get solid sleep as the season changes from summer to fall, and the days get increasingly shorter, it’s important to prioritize spending time outdoors.
“Focus on your light exposure, especially as the days start to get shorter,” says Dr. Nishi Bhopal MD, board certified psychiatrist and sleep specialist at IntraBalance and member of the review panel at Sleep Advisor. To get the vitamin D you need—and keep your circadian rhythm on track—take advantage of the autumn sunlight and prioritize outdoor activities. For example, start your day off with a walk in the sunshine, take a lunchtime work call outside, or go for an outdoor run before dinner.
This summer was HOT—and when it’s hot, it can be hard to get motivated to work out. But if you let fitness fall by the wayside this summer, fall is the time to take advantage of the cooler weather and recommit to your workout plan, and get better sleep as a result.
This means exercise can act as a one-two punch, helping to minimize anxiety and support better sleep. “Exercise helps to increase the neurotransmitter adenosine, which contributes to the sleep drive and promotes sleepiness,” says Bhopal. “Regular exercise also reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can impact sleep.” Exercise has also been shown to help you fall asleep faster—and, once you’re asleep, improve sleep quality.
The point is, exercise is one of the best things you can do to get a better night’s sleep—so, as you transition your sleep routine from summer to fall, make sure to make fitness a nonnegotiable part of your autumn routine.
…but make sure to get it at the right time
Exercise promotes better sleep, but only if you exercise at the right time. When you workout, you rev up your body—and if you get yourself too revved up before bedtime, it can actually make it harder to sleep.
“You don’t want to get your heart pumping too close to bedtime, as that’s not conducive to a restful night [of sleep],” says Leadley.
In order to get the most sleep-boosting benefits, aim to workout at least three to six hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Adjust the thermostat
Temperature plays a big role in how well you sleep. And while blasting the AC might have been the right move during the heat of the summer, in the fall, you may need to adjust the thermostat to find the perfect sleep temperature. Bear in mind that there is an ideal temperature for getting the right amount of Zzz’s—though your instinct may be to crank the heat at night or stay curled up under the covers for longer in the AM.
“The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Leadley. “In most cases, if you are sleeping and the temperatures rise above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 54 degrees, it can wake you up.” So, as the weather changes, make sure you’re making any necessary adjustments to get your home to the temperature you need for a better night’s sleep.
Switch up your bedding
As mentioned, temperature plays a large role in how well you sleep. But the thermostat isn’t the only thing that influences temperature—bedding plays a part, too. “Bedding can impact sleep quality by affecting your body temperature,” says Bhopal.
If you tend to get hot during the night, try “natural fiber sheets like cotton or linen, as they are more breathable than synthetic materials and help you stay cool [as you sleep],” says Bhopal.
On the flip side, if you run on the colder side, you may want to try bundling up at bedtime. “As temperatures drop, consider finding a fluffier blanket to keep warm,” says Leadley. “If that’s not enough, linens made of silk, satin or polyester will retain more heat than traditionally lightweight…bed linens such as cotton.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.