Autumn is upon us. Nights are getting darker, the air has more of a bite to it and it’s time to dig out the winter wardrobe in preparation for frostier days. The clocks also go back next Sunday, making the evenings draw in even more. Whilst there’s Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas to look forward to, it’s also around this time each year that many of us experience a drop in mood and energy levels.
For around 7% of us, this unfortunately has a more severe effect, taking the form of SAD. Seasonal affective disorder can zap your zest for life, leaving you over-tired, constantly hungry and wanting to do nothing but lie in bed all day.
The good news is, that there are lots of small steps you can take to ward off the winter blues, and enjoy the next six or so months through into spring. We’ve gathered six of the most helpful top tips to see you through.
See the Light
Our body clock controls everything from when we wake up and go to sleep, to how hungry we are and our energy levels throughout each day. To work properly, the body clock needs to be reset each dawn and dusk. Light sensors in the eye called ‘ganglion cells’ help to control this, letting the body know when it’s time to wake, slumber and everything in between.
When the clocks go back, this can disrupt our body clock, causing symptoms similar to jet lag. Whilst we’re exposed to lots of artificial light throughout the day, this isn’t nearly as bright as the outdoor light we need to send the vital signals to our body.
To combat this, experts recommend spending at least 30 minutes outside whilst it’s light, and sleeping in total darkness. If you’re still feeling groggy, it may be worth investing in a SAD lamp which simulates the brightness of outdoor light, to give your body clock an extra boost.
On dark, rainy days it’s almost impossible not to want to do anything but huddle inside under the covers, eating something carbohydrate-related. However, even gentle exercise has been proven to ease anxiety and release ‘feel-good’ serotonin into the brain, resulting in a more positive outlook for the day ahead.
If possible, try to fit in a walk outside in natural light to aid your body clock, also making it easier to get a good night’s sleep. Yoga, pilates and swimming are also all great ways to release tension from the body, easing stress.
Feeling cold can enhance feelings of depression, and studies have shown that keeping warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Invest in a good winter coat, scarf and umbrella to keep you from spending the morning shivering in the office post-commute.
Aim to keep your home between 18°C and 21°C, and enjoy hot food and drinks throughout the day to keep you feeling cosy. Dark cocoa is a rich source of minerals and other beneficial compounds, and add some honey too for extra antioxidants!
Pick a Hobby
Winter means spending more time indoors, but this doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Take the opportunity to choose a new hobby such as writing a blog, keeping a gratitude journal – or even just working your way through a reading or top films list.
This will give you something to look forward to at the end of a gloomy day, and help to keep things bright.
Boost Your Immunity
Preventing illness is key to a happy hibernation season, and studies have shown that our T-cells decrease and inflammatory cytokines increase if we are sleep deprived. In simple terms, this could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.
With the nation sleeping an average of an hour and a half less every night than we did 60 years ago, it makes sense to use the dark nights to your benefit this winter and catch up on some of that lost sleep.
Creating a winter haven in your home can help to ease many of the uncomfortable symptoms caused by the cold weather. Lighting is key to creating a relaxing ambience – so carefully position lots of lamps and fairy lights for ultimate relaxation.
Scents can also invoke positive feelings, so choose your favourites and position around the home in the form of candles, incense or diffusers.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, don’t forget your bedroom. This is the place where your body and mind recharges for the following day, and so needs to be just right. If you have back problems, a medium-firm mattress may help to ease your discomfort, making your slumber a sounder one. Our soon to be launched “Smart” mattress protector, with its innovative technology will help you regulate temperature by keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer. So with this, accompanied by cosy blankets and throws, you’ll be sure to stay cosy and get a great night’s sleep.
So, there we have it, six great starting points to set you off on the right track this winter. And don’t forget, if your symptoms don’t improve and your quality of life has decreased, head straight to your GP for further advice.
Do you have any additional top tips for a wonderful winter? We’d love to hear them! You can find us @SleepbearUK on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.