Sleepiness can be a big problem in the winter, especially for nurses.  Dreary weather combined with late night shifts or erratic on-call schedules can often lead to tired, drowsy days.  One of the best ways to fight this sluggishness is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  Here are five tips you can use now to rest well and wake up alert on winter mornings.

1. Ease up on the heat
It’s tempting to turn up the thermostat before heading to bed on a cold winter night.  However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, your bedroom should be relatively cool–between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit–for the best comfort.

2. Pay attention to diet and exercise
Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full at night.  The discomfort from either could make it hard to fall asleep.  In addition, avoid stimulants like caffeine right before bedtime.  They could take several hours to wear off, which would make it difficult for your body to settle down and rest.

 3. Create a bedtime routine
Have a pleasant and relaxing night time ritual to help you wind down in the evening.  Try reading or listening to soft music in dim light.  These activities help signal to your brain that it’s time to shift from active mode to sleep time.

Once you are in bed, avoid distractions such as the TV, laptop, smart phone and other devices, which could cause you to stay stimulated and awake.  If necessary, consider using sleep aids such as “white noise machines”, blackout curtains and (if you have a snoring partner) ear plugs.  Also, consider using a humidifier if the winter air is uncomfortably dry in your room.

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This time of year, less sunlight could affect your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to fully wake up in the morning. A lighted alarm clock could help brighten your bedroom when it’s time to rise.

Regardless of what you choose for your routine, keep it consistent. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each morning and night, even on the weekends.

4. Inspect your bedding
The average mattress life is eight to ten years.  If you’ve noticed that you sleep uncomrtably on your existing mattress and pillow, it may be time to replace them.  If you suffer from allergies, make sure your linen is washed regularly in water that is hot enough to kill the allergens.

5. Learn more about sleep issues
Take this interactive quiz from the National Institutes of Health to see how much you know about sleep problems.  If you think you may have a sleep disorder, be sure to see your doctor.

Nights are longer this time of year, but it can still be difficult for nurses to feel well-rested and alert on winter mornings.  By following these suggestions, you can help your body wind down at night, feel comfortable and get the rest it needs.


Margarette Burnette
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