Seasonal variations in sleep architecture


Sleep Network

Non-Respiratory Sleep Section

Do you feel like you sleep worse in the spring and have more difficulty keeping your schedule on track? There are new data to support the way you feel based on our deeper understanding of seasonal variations in sleep architecture.

Patients in a recent study had 43 minutes less total sleep time and approximately 30 less minutes of REM sleep in the late spring when compared with the winter (Seidler A, et al. Front Neurosci. 2023 Feb 17:17:1105233). Accumulation of decreased sleep time and quality can lead to the sensation of ‘running-on-empty’ by early spring.

Experts believe these seasonal variations in sleep architecture are mainly secondary to circadian shifts. Our social synchronization overrides our natural alignment with daylight patterns and can lead to known consequences of circadian misalignment. Common consequences of poor circadian alignment include worsening sleep disturbances, cognitive impairments, occupational mistakes, and metabolic and mental health disturbances (Schmal C, et al. Front Physiol. 2020 Apr 28:11:334; Boivin D, et al. J Biol Rhythms. 2022 Feb;37[1]:3-28).

The effects of circadian misalignment can be particularly dramatic in children receiving less than their age-appropriate hours of sleep. Children with sleep deprivation are at increased risk of attention, behavior, and learning problems (Paruthi S, et al. J Clinl Sleep Med. 2016;12[6]:785-6).

To improve circadian alignment in spring, it is recommended to achieve morning bright light exposure and perform regular exercise. The elimination of daylight savings time to a consensus of permanent standard time will optimize circadian alignment.

Christopher Izzo, DO – Section Fellow-in-Training

William Healy, MD – Section Member-at-Large

Mariam Louis, MD – Section Chair

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