As we near the Sept. 22 Autumn Equinox, the air is getting crisp, nights are cool, and leaves fall from trees in a kaleidoscope of color. But, amid of all this beauty you might feel exhausted, and yes, it does have to do with the equinox. How does the Autumn Equinox affect your sleep? You're likely aware that full and new moons can have an impact on your sleep cycle, however the Autumn Equinox has a unique quality that makes it just as likely to affect your slumber.
"The Fall Equinox is one of two moments in the year when day and night are in perfect balance," Dr. Athena Perrakis, founder and CEO of Sage Goddess, tells Bustle in an email. The other date when day and night are in perfect balance is the Spring, or Vernal, Equinox, and changes in light patterns from the sun can seriously disrupt your precious sack time during both seasons.
"In the animal world, light has a profound effect on everything — from feeding and hunting to migration and reproduction," ACMC Health explained on its website. "As humans, we are no exception. When the amount of daylight changes from season to season, our biological rhythms can get 'out of whack,' resulting in disrupted sleep patterns."
So, the bottom line is that it's not all in your head. The Autumn Equinox really could have you reaching for an extra Pumpkin Spice Latte, and it's totally normal.
Why Fall Has You Falling Asleep
While you're probably familiar with the term insomnia, which is when you have trouble sleeping at night, you may not have heard of hypersomnia, which means excessive daytime sleepiness, according to ACMC Health. This can happen when your internal body clock is disrupted during the change of seasons, like the forthcoming Autumn Equinox.
On this day, there is no tilt to the earth's axis, which means it stands straight up and down, resulting in an equal amount of light and dark for everyone on the planet. (In the southern hemisphere, this date is known as the Spring Equinox.) After the equinox, people who live in the northern hemisphere, like in the U.S., start to receive less sunlight as the earth tilts away from the sun.
"As the days become shorter and the nights longer, our biological clock (circadian rhythm) could get disrupted. For most this change is hardly noticeable as the body learns to adjust and reset its internal clock," ACMC Health explained. "However, for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this can lead to changes in serotonin and melatonin levels, which affect sleep patterns and mood."
But You Don't Have To Fight The Feeling
Today's always-on-the-go world probably has you feeling like you can never take a break, but that's exactly what the universe wants you to do during and after the Autumn Equinox. While you might feel the urge to fight through the fatigue, up to 40 percent of people can experience hypersomnia, according to Medicine.net. So, if this happens to you, there's nothing weird or abnormal about it.
"The annual Autumn Equinox helps us honor the beauty of the balance between day and night, between activities and restful times, between productivity and contemplation, and it encourages us give thanks for our life’s bountiful harvest," Elaine Voci Ph.D. reported for Spirituality & Health.
Before all of the inventions that make your life easy and productive, like electricity, people were more in tune with the natural progression of the earth's seasons because their survival depended on it. While modern advancements have vastly improved your life, it's possible that your body might be out of synch with the planet's natural rhythm, which could result in disrupted sleep patterns and general fatigue.
"Early civilizations were in tune with the energies of the equinox, honoring the cycles of nature and the shift in season," Voci explained. "Nowadays, we have to more consciously tune in to honor the natural rhythms of the season with mindful awareness."
While the Autumn Equinox is a beautiful thing, the havoc it can wreak on your body and mind is no joke. Make sure to make your health and wellness a priority as you head into fall. Until your body adjusts, it might be best to just go with it. It's an ideal time to cook soups and stews, clean out your closet, take a walk outside, or relax with a good book. Sleep tight, my friendlies.