What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that’s common in the winter months, especially in women. You may feel down, irritable, low on energy, craving sweet or starchy foods more than usual, it can also cause you to sleep more or less than usual.
How does Seasonal Affective Disorder Impact Your Sleep?
While it’s not easy to know exactly what causes SAD, there are several elements that play a key role.
- Vitamin D – which is believed to help elevate serotonin activity. So, when you have low vitamin D, it’s very common to feel depressed.
- Circadian rhythm – fewer sunlight hours in the winter months can disrupt our natural biological clock, which can lead to an increased risk in feeling depressed.
- Melatonin levels – darkness increases your production of melatonin, this is our natural sleep hormone that helps regulate our sleep. Because the winter months are darker we may experience elevated melatonin levels that can make you sleepier and more lethargic, which influences normal sleep behavior and moods.
What are some tips for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder?
As the seasons change from winter to spring you may see a reduction in SAD symptoms but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer all winter long! There are things you can do to reduce the impact of SAD.
1.Focus on how nature can help you sleep better.
Because an increase of darkness is one of the things that triggers SAD, we want to expose ourselves to more natural light. When we wake up right, we help our body build enough drive to sleep throughout the day making falling asleep at night much easier. We can start by opening up the blinds upon waking or get outside for a morning walk in the fresh air. Invest in a natural light simulator alarm clock to help you wake up to natural light.
The photoreceptors in our eyes regulate our energy levels, mood, and sleep patterns. These receptors respond the blue light of the sky. It can be tough for some individuals to get outside throughout the day. There are light therapy devices that you can use for only 20-30 minutes a day that can give you the exposure to the blue sky that you need to keep your serotonin levels raised and melatonin levels balanced.
Placing an amethyst on your night table can help to relieve stress and promote deep sleep. This crystal can also help to alleviate headaches and anxiety, improve your skin and aid in cell regeneration. Whether you place it on your night table or under your pillow it can help quiet the mind of negative thoughts for those who suffer from insomnia and racing thoughts.
3. Prioritize a healthy diet
Choosing foods that give your body energy such as proteins, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables will help keep your energy up and avoid sugar crashes. Focus on nutritional intake of zinc, tryptophan, and iron through food sources of chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, chicken and turkey, firm tofu, and spinach.
Take care of your health this winter
If you aren’t sure if you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder or if you’ve tried several things to help but are still feeling depressed, see a doctor to seek further diagnosis and support. Feeling low in the winter months due to SAD is a common issue, but don’t just write off the winter season and hibernate. Prioritize your health and wellness, treat yourself gently, and hopefully, you’ll be able to find a few things that work for you and make winter easier to handle.
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