Winter is coming…

Posted by on September 11, 2022

by Ailidh Carpendale

I’m trying to not rush fall, it is my favourite season in Toronto. I’m basking in the crisp nights and bright days. I’m noticing much less sunlight – and it’s less intense – than a few short weeks ago. I believe we all experience changes in our systems as the daylight lessens and we move into the darker part of the year. For some, this is especially hard.

Here are a few accessible tips that can help smooth our seasonal transitions:

Tip #1: Wake Up Brightly

Offer yourself bright light in the morning. This helps regulate our circadian rhythm, our internal clock. Exposing ourselves to bright light for 2-10 minutes, when done within one hour of waking, not only helps wake us up, it also primes the system to start winding down about 14-16 hours later. Ideally, we’d step into full sunlight and bask in it for a full ten minutes, but any light will do – sun lamps, a bright full-spectrum bulb, or any bright light! This is great news for those of us who get up before sunrise all winter long. I also now use this trick to aid with adjustment to time change and jet lag.

Tip #2: Live It Up!

Get outside as much as you can. Take vitamin D! Play in the snow. Breathe some cold air. If you have the heart for it, go jump in the lake. The endorphins are intoxicating.

Tip #3: Winding Down

Give yourself the gift of reinforcing the rhythm of your life. Eat at a consistent time. Dim your lights and turn off the non-essentials (technology) to help your body wind down to rest.

Tip #4: Sleep Well

I used to scoff when people asked me about sleep. My youngest child didn’t sleep through the night until he was 6… all told it was easily 12 years that I didn’t enjoy a full night’s rest! Tiredness felt inevitable and the advice about improving sleep (no gadgets for 3 hours before bed?!) felt impossible and irrelevant. Here are some suggestions that have helped with the quality of my sleep and have felt manageable to implement over time.

1) Noise. Cut down on noise and try white noise in the bedroom. City noise is familiar to me: I lived in downtown Toronto and prior to that, on a party street in Montreal. I love white noise to help drown out the city sounds. I also use ear plugs (ortho pax are my favourites!).

2) Black-out blinds. These don’t have to be expensive but they are critical for shutting out the artificial lights of the city. Darkness during sleep is very good for the endocrine system and promotes the healing we all need from our rest.

3) Eye mask. Another darkness reinforcement. For me, a sleep mask has also become a sleep-associated sensation.

4) Warmth. Try a warm bath, a warm shower, a warm cup of tea, a hot water bottle, a heating pad, or a hot tub (if you are so fortunate). The experience of being warm helps most of us drift off to sleep. The warmth sensation can be deeply soothing to the body.

If you struggle with sleep, experiment with some of these tips. Incremental change is sometimes more sustainable than a sudden overhaul!

If you feel conflicted about attending to the quality of your rest, I suggest The Nap Ministry? It’s a powerful read about the intersectional activism of intentional rest.

Rest well!

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