Winter is here and the darkness is overwhelming. Not getting enough natural light every day is a well justified worry. Anxiety, mood changes, sleep problems, tiredness, irritability, overeating, panic attacks, dampen spirits are all symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition is experienced in various degrees of intensity by millions of people, particularly those living in the Northern Hemisphere where 20% of adults feel seasonal impact.
I now understand why I sleep better during the summer time even though I previously thought this was quite bizarre. During summer months the sun creeps into my bedroom at 5 am and I tend to live a more irregular life with more get-togethers and barbies with friends. So how can this equal better sleep? Well, it looks like all that light and socializing is very good for us, and especially on our sleep.
So what can we do to get more light and keep the hormone levels in healthier balance? I am relieved to find out that we can do loads on our own but that there are also new innovations that help our light-deprived winter lives.
6 Tips to beat SAD:
1. Be proactive. If you have noticed sensitivity towards decreasing daylight, do something before the SAD symptoms really hit you. Walk to work and school run and do some exercise in the morning light which is the most optimum time for balancing our melatonin hormone production. Remember: even the cloudiest day outdoors is more effective than a day indoors in artificial light.
2. Stay social. Do things you enjoy, now more than ever! Get a hobby that brings like-minded people together. The key is to stay in touch with people and avoid isolation in the darkness. Enjoy the festive season with a full heart and ignore the rigid routines just for a while.
3. Psychotherapy can be effective for people with severe SAD symptoms. It addresses mood and behavioral causes of the problem. Psychotherapy helps to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors in order to find healthy ways to better cope with stress and SAD symptoms.
4. Get a bright light. Seasonal affective disorder was first described by Norman Rosenthal, M.D. in 1984. According to pioneering scientists, SAD patients’ internal biological clock is delayed and morning bright light therapy has proven to be effective to alleviate SAD symptoms. Choose a bright light carefully, you can find advice in here. Professor Timo Partanen underlines that to get the full benefit of the light, it has to produce 2000-3000 lux on eye level meaning that the use distance should ideally be 50 cm, not more. However, bright light therapy does not fit all, check the guidance before investing. A SAD Lightbox here is one with highest recommendations.
5. New innovations. Valkee bright light headset is based on the idea that there is an alternative pathway of thought through which the alerting and mood uplifting effects of light are mediated. A Valkee bright light headset divides expert opinions but hundreds of customers swear by it. The current knowledge of light and its impact onto human system is very recent, just couple of decenniums old. Who knows – it just might work but we only know if we test it first.
6. Candles – every night. I have decided to take the dark out of the dark season by placing beautiful and scented candles everywhere in our house and light them regularly – not just on special occasions. Making a cozy snug is our winter privilege! And what’s the best: dim lighting in the evening, couple of hours before going to bed, naturally induces and prepares our body to fall asleep.
Whatever way you choose to treat SAD symptoms, changes with our mood and sleep do not happen overnight. Consistency delivers results.
More information about SAD in here.
Have you noticed mood swings according to seasonal changes? What are your best tricks and tips to stay positive when it’s dark, wet and cold?