Why the winter months may be a good time to catch up on some ZZZs

Are you feeling like a social outcast lately because you’ve been crawling into bed at 7:30 p.m.? Falling asleep earlier than usual during the winter months is normal and can be a good thing, a Maryland doctor said.

Dr. Emerson Wickwire, professor and section head of sleep medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that many Americans are sleep deprived, so the winter months give us a chance to “hibernate,” and catch up on lost sleep.

“One of the two hardwired biological systems that controls sleep in our body is called the circadian system,” Wickwire said. “Light is the strongest regulator of the circadian system.”

Less sunlight during the winter means more snoozing.

“When we talk about people catching up on sleep in the wintertime, generally, we are talking about catching up an additional 30 to 60 minutes of sleep per night,” he said.

A 2020 survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 34% of American adults said they sleep more during the winter. During the brighter summer months, more than 36% of surveyed adults said they sleep less.

The optimal amount of sleep for healthy adults, whatever time of year, is 7-8 hours a night according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

If you have questions about your sleeping pattern, or if you are having trouble falling or staying asleep during the night, Wickwire said it’s a good idea to check with your doctor.

As for those people who struggle to wake up winter mornings — when the moon is still out — Wickwire recommends turning on some bright lights in your home, moving your body and a judicious amount of caffeine.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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