'Sleep is not an extravagance': Expert says winter can actually be good for us

The long nights can help people catch up on rest.

  • Winter can help sleep deprived people
  • Currently in darkest part of year
  • Light therapy helps SAD
  • Sleep is not an extravagance

The short, cold, and darker days can be a challenge for many people, but one local sleep expert says the longer nights can also be beneficial for catching up on rest.

“The sun affects people’s sleep. And when the sun is up early people tend to wake up earlier. When it’s up later, they tend to stay up later,” Dr. Ron Cridland, medical director at the Kelowna Sleep Clinic told Kelowna10.

“A lot of people tend to be more sleep deprived in the summer months. In the wintertime, they actually get a chance to catch up on their sleep and on average probably sleep a little bit more as a result.”

Cridland said this time of year can be especially beneficial to the sleep patterns of those working outdoors like farmers and construction workers.

Dec. 21 marked the winter solstice and the longest night of the year. Daylight will now begin to increase, although very slowly. Currently, we are experiencing some of the longest nights on the calendar with the sunset in Kelowna happening soon after 4 p.m.

While the darkness can help people catch up on a backlog of sleep, it can have a negative effect on mood.

Lack of sunlight can result in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Tell-tale signs of SAD are fatigue, and depressive feelings, which can impact motivation. Cridland explained it can also lead to overeating and weight gain in the winter months.

For some, it can be more significant than a temporary seasonal mood shift and can negatively impact sleep.

Patients visiting the sleep clinic and reporting SAD are recommended light therapy.

“They often respond to bright light first thing in the morning. They will use something called a SAD light,” Cridland said.

“They’ll sit in front of it, maybe 18 inches from their face for 30 to 45 minutes. And that will actually help boost their mood.”

He said many department and drug stores sell SAD lights.

Cridland stressed the importance of quality sleep as the time for your body to heal from daily wear-and-tear. He said the most prominent disorder is just insufficient amounts of sleep.

He encourages people in Kelowna to make sleep a higher priority.

“If you’re going to make a new year’s resolution, make one to take care of yourself. Sleep is not an extravagance or a luxury or a waste or time. It’s your maintenance.”

Published 2021-12-28 by David Hanson

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