LARGE parts of Australia woke to their coldest morning of the year over the weekend, and the winter chill is set to continue well into this week.
On Sunday, Sydney had its coldest morning of the year with Sydney Olympic Park a frosty 1.2C at 6.30am, while Brisbane dropped to 5.2C for its coldest morning too.
But when it comes to winter, the cooler weather affects more than just the temperature. From differences in air quality to diet and even catching the flu, chilly nights affect how we sleep.
With shorter days and colder nights, getting out of bed in the morning can be a real challenge, especially when you leave work at the other end of the day in complete darkness.
But the winter months, according to The Sleep Coach Cheryl Fingleson, can be the best time of the year to get a solid night of rest.
“Changing winter to summer affects the release of melatonin and the circadian rhythm in the body,” she told news.com.au.
“The sun sets earlier in winter so you start to feel sleepy earlier.”
Here’s five top tips to sleeping better when it’s cold outside.
1. BLOCK DRAFTS
Ensure all windows are closed and there are no drafts in your bedroom. A cool breeze can wake a sound sleep. Also check that there are is no TV or screen use at least one hour before winding down.
2. GET THE RIGHT SHOWER TEMPERATURE
A nice warm shower or bath before bedtime is a good way to start keeping warm all night.
According to Dr Dianne Augelli of the Centre for Sleep Medicine in New York, there’s evidence that a night shower can help you drift off, if you time it just right. The main trick is to not start too late.
“You don’t want to heat yourself up right before bed,” she told Time magazine.
The body temperature plays an important part in regulating circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to feel sleepy or alert.
“Cooling down is a signal that tells us we’re supposed to go to sleep,” she says, “so interrupting this process can make it harder to fall asleep.”
According to James Horne, a neuroscience professor at Loughborough University in England, taking a hot bath before bed has a similar effect on your core temperature.
“When you get out of the bath you cool down more quickly, which is what the body wants to do at bed time,” he said, adding that soaking in water that is about 39C for 30 minutes in the early evening will improve sleep.
3. KEEP ROOM TEMPERATURE BETWEEN 18-21C
“Part of the body process when falling asleep is decreasing body temperature,” Ms Fingleson said.
“Sleeping with a room temperature between 18-22 degrees will play an important role in the onset and will allow your body to release more melatonin.”
In a 2016 study, researchers said people should set their thermostat a few degrees lower when going to bed because the core needs to drop to help initiate sleep.
“If our core temperature is too high, the brain cannot easily make the switch from being awake to being asleep, or create the best quality sleep,” Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Wall Street Journal.
4. USE FLANNEL EVERYTHING
Flannel is a great insulator and helps to retain your body heat. Other materials that hold heat well are wool, fleece or silk.
Merino wool blankets are the best to keep you warm on those cold nights and cold mornings or a thick down doona or comforter.
According to Ms Fingleson, flannel PJs or onesie with a long-sleeve vest underneath is the way to go to bed.
The fabric has been used since the 1600s to protect farmers from the harsh elements. As its popularity grew, flannel became multifunctional. According to Overstock, flannel was originally made from heavy wool, but got a makeover in the 20th century when bedding manufacturers began combining it with cotton to produce lightweight sheets.
Today, flannel sheets still provide more warmth than cotton sheets alone, but they are lightweight enough to keep you comfortable while sleeping.
As a side, keeping feet warm is a natural human sedative so wear a pair of socks to bed.
5. BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU EAT AND DRINK BEFORE BED
Before bed, babies always have milk. This can also translate to adulthood. Any drink that has a high magnesium is good to have before bed. Ovaltine mixed with warm milk will help with relaxation and assist sleep. Warm milk with honey can also work wonders.
According to Ms Fingleson, herbal blend teas, such as camomile and lavender, contain glycine, an amino acid that acts as a mild sedative, aiding relaxation and our ability to fall asleep.
“Avoid alcohol, caffeine and a heavy meal before bedtime,” she said. “Have your big meal at lunchtime … and avoid heavy intakes of alcohol before bedtime — although it may appear to help you fall asleep, you however wake earlier and not very refreshed.”
Ms Fingleson said kiwis and cherries, which are loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, vitamin B6, fibre and serotonin are great before bed.
“Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and plant-based protein,” she added. “Walnuts are an excellent source of tryptophan and one of the best food sources of melatonin, while almonds are high in magnesium and calcium.
“Certain foods can help synthesise a sleep-enhancing chemical called tryptophan, which helps our bodies make melatonin and serotonin; the hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.
“Turkey, peanut butter and nuts, to name a few, are an excellent source of tryptophan and one of the best food sources of melatonin, while almonds are high in magnesium and calcium.”
Ms Fingleson said not having a regular bedtime routine, watching TV or working on any screens before bed should be avoided if you’re hoping to get a restful night.