by Lori Ann
I've heard the wive's tales, the doctors' research, and the modern-day talk about cold weather. It's hard to sort fact from fiction in what others say, but it's clear to me what's true in my life: I get really tired during the winter!
As the temperatures began dropping in our town here in rural China, my husband and I started noticing the same thing: we wanted to sleep all the time. 10:30pm as a bedtime suddenly seemed unnecessarily late. Getting out of bed in the morning got a lot harder. We felt kind of lazy, and I wondered what was up: were we just losing our usual motivation because it was so cold both inside and out, or do we humans actually need more sleep in the winter?
My online findings were mixed, but two apparently reliable sources came to the same conclusion: though we don't hibernate like some mammals, our bodies have an internal clock based on the sun's presence and absence. When the sun goes down sooner, our nights last longer, so it's natural for us to sleep more. The Total Wellbeing Blog says "don't be too hard on yourself when you can't drag yourself out of bed as quick on those colder, darker mornings," and the UK's NHS suggests using winter as a time to improve your health by finally getting the sleep you actually need all year round.
What to do?
Since we still have jobs, families, and other committments, we can't simply sleep the days away just because it feels good. Here are some of my family's tricks to keep warm and active during these cold days. Share your own in the comments!
* DO sleep! - Getting enough sleep, even if we don't during the rest of the year, seems to help us stay active during the hours we should.
* Hot water - When I'm cold, my tendency is to snack on something carb-y, which just keeps me going for a little while and then drains me of energy soon after that. I've found that drinking hot water - the temperature you would use to make tea or coffee - is actually a sweet and pleasant treat that makes me feel warm all over.
* Heating pads - In a place like we live where homes don't have heating, all the stores are selling heating pads to keep your hands warm. I like to put mine on my feet while I type. Make your own with TipNut's instructions.
* Walking - My husband and I always love after-dinner walks, but during this time of the year we like morning walks, afternoon walks, and pre-dinner walks, too! Getting moving gets our bodies warm, and, if the sun's out, our apartment's probably colder, anyway!
* Layer clothing - You've heard this one a million times, so I'll just share one tip: knee-highs under regular socks are GREAT in the winter because you can pull them up to your knee while you're outside, and, if you are blessed with a warm indoors, just push them down to your ankles. Easier than taking off heavy socks that make your feet sweat inside.
* Electric blanket - We're forming a habit of turning the electric blanket on 30 minutes before we want to go to bed (and of course we turn it off before getting in). This way, we don't go to bed too soon, because we want it to be warm when we get in! Electric blankets are also more energy-efficient than heating the whole room, so they're better on the environment and your pocketbook.
* Warm breakfast - It's a lot easier for me to get out of bed in the morning if I know warm food is just minutes away. I've been making my own "instant oatmeal" packets and keeping plenty so I can eat it with breakfast every day.
What are your winter tips? Share 'em in the comments so we can all benefit!
Winter Health for Families