We know how crucial sleep is to our health and well-being. However, there are specific periods when it is widespread to suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia, headaches upon waking, or feeling that we have not had enough rest are conditions that can become more pronounced with the arrival of spring. But how does this happen?
Sleep Disorders and Spring: “Blame” Melatonin
In spring, increased daylight hours and longer days in general cause an alteration in melatonin production, the hormone produced by the pineal gland or epiphysis, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
If melatonin is not secreted in the correct manner and amount, it can result in either difficulty falling asleep (i.e., early insomnia) or sleep disturbed by continuous awakenings (late insomnia).
Melatonin is generally produced between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. to avoid nighttime awakenings and maintain a constant sleep time, lasting between 7 and 9 hours in adults.
If sleep is fragmented and interrupted by constant awakenings, it not only leads to feeling tired the next day but also negatively affects mood and general health. Lack of sleep heavily affects physical and mental condition, professional efficiency, and personal relationships.
Insomnia and Stress: A Link Not to Be Underestimated
All the emotions that we experience during the day or perhaps do not express can accompany us during the night. Stress and anxiety can affect sleep by activating hormonal mechanisms that interfere with the action of melatonin, keeping us awake.
Waking Headaches: Common Even in Springtime
Sleep affected by stress and the accumulation of worries can often result in waking headaches. Supplements such as passionflower, valerian, chamomile, magnesium, lavender, and melatonin can be tried to help sleep. In some cases, the doctor may recommend more robust products, such as benzodiazepines, for a short period.
If sleep disturbances persist and waking headaches do not go away after a couple of months, it is necessary to talk to a neurologist. It could be pathologies such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, extrapyramidal disorders, psychiatric disorders, or respiratory or cardiac disorders.
Spring: How to Sleep Well
To avoid the “typical” insomnia of spring, you can implement several measures that can help restore proper melatonin secretion, such as:
- Always go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, even on weekends when possible.
- Keep smartphones and other electronic devices that can affect melatonin production out of your eyes.
- Reduce nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol during the day.
- Eat properly by avoiding heavy and salty meals, preferring bread, pasta, rice, barley, vegetables, fish, milk, low-fat cheeses, yogurt, bananas, cherries, grapes, walnuts, and almonds without overdoing the quantities.
- Exercise regularly, but not in the 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Sleep as much as possible in the dark, away from noise, and on a good bed.
- If necessary, use melatonin products when struggling to sleep. These do not cure insomnia but merely help during those periods when sleep is disturbed.