Advice to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder over winter months
WITH winter approaching and darker nights and mornings when the clocks go back at the end of October, many people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder will be looking for ways to combat some of the challenges they face.
Often dubbed the ‘winter blues’, SAD affects one in 15 Brits (www.mentalhealth.org.uk) and is characterised by persistent low mood, irritability and feeling sleepy during the day.
At its worst, the disorder is treated with antidepressants and UV light therapy but in milder cases, small lifestyle changes like getting a good night’s sleep, eating right and spending more time outside can be incredibly effective.
Whether you suffer from SAD or your energy levels have simply dipped, Silentnight sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan has some good pointers.
During the winter people are often less motivated to exercise but it's crucial to keep moving if you want to boost your mood. Exercise reduces stress hormone levels and will give you a clearer and more positive outlook on life; it also enables you to sleep more deeply which will make you better prepared for the day ahead.
Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of the happy hormone serotonin. In the winter your serotonin levels can dip so try to get outside as much as possible. Even just half an hour on your lunch break will make a difference, or kill two birds with one stone and exercise outside; getting as much light as possible will help to reset the body’s circadian rhythm.
The winter leaves many of us craving starchy carbohydrates and while these are a vital part of any diet, it’s important to strike a balance. If you need a snack fill up on foods like walnuts, bananas and tomatoes; they all help your body to produce serotonin and will lift your mood.
Diet also plays a significant role in the quality of sleep we have. It’s best to avoid having a heavy meal before bedtime. If you often wake up in the night feeling hungry then try having a little snack before bedtime.
Have a nap
Feeling lethargic during the day is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Learning how to power nap is a great way of combating this. Naps should be between 10 and 20 minutes and be taken when you start to feel sleepy or find yourself losing concentration. Many people have a natural dip in energy levels around 3pm - making it the ideal time.
Be tech smart
Information overload and constant connection can negatively impact your mood. While it might be tempting to cuddle up with your iPad this winter, make sure you allow your brain to switch off in the evenings. Avoid social media accounts and emails for 90 minutes before bedtime. Instead read a book, listen to relaxing music and have a bath using relaxing essential oils. A regular wind down routine like this will reduce feelings of anxiety and allow your mind to relax; making sure you get a good night’s sleep and preparing you for the day ahead.
For more information and further advice, check out Dr Nerina’s Sleep Toolkit: http://www.silentnight.co.uk/sleep-matters/dr-nerinas-sleep-toolkit/