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How Winter Can Affect Our Mood & Our Sleep Patterns Plus Wellbeing Tips

How Winter Can Affect Our Mood & Our Sleep Patterns Plus Wellbeing Tips

We are firmly into autumn here in the UK and as we move ever closer to the clocks going back, for 1 in 3 of the population, that can mean not only a slump in mood, but sleep disturbances too.

Why does winter in particular play such a key role in our mood and sleep patterns? We look into the vital role that vitamin D plays and what seasonal affective disorder, (also known as SAD) is, as well as how to combat it a feel better throughout autumn and winter.

Did you know?

  • Women are 40% more likely to suffer from SAD than men
  • Symptoms of SAD include low energy levels, low mood, insomnia and anxiety
  • 57% of adults believe that their mood is worse during winter

The research commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov shows that being impacted by winter is much more prevalent than was previously believed.

So why does the mood of so many people plummet at this time of year in particular? Of course the biggest change during the winter months is linked to daylight. The days get progressively shorter from the Autumn Equinox (around the end of September) onwards and in the peak of winter, there’s less than 8 hours of daylight here in the UK.

The amount of daylight matters because light and in particular, direct sunshine is responsible for vitamin D production. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, even in the middle of summer if you don’t spend much time outdoors, you might not be getting enough of it, so in winter when there’s less sunshine, the days are far shorter and it’s cold so we’re more likely to spend time indoors, it stands to reason that Vitamin D production takes a dive, and often with it, our mood.

Even on a bright and sunny winters day, getting out for a walk won’t do you as much good as a comparable walk in say spring. That’s because here in the UK, winter sunlight is weaker and doesn't contain enough UVB radiation to allow our bodies to make vitamin D.

As well as less vitamin D, the lack of sunlight can also play havoc with your sleep hormones, Melatonin in particular which helps to regulate sleep, Serotonin which helps to regulate mood and your bodies circadian rhythm can be impacted by the changes in sunlight, causing symptoms of SAD.

If you feel like your mood or sleep is worse at this time of year, it’s important to realise that you’re not alone! Help is out there. Start by taking a look at the NHS website to find out more.

Winter sleep and wellbeing tips

Wellbeing Tips - How to Feel Better During Winter

Head outdoors

Try to spend as much time outdoors as you can. Nature has been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, so being outdoors and making the most of what little sunshine there is at this time of year can really help.

Maintain a good sleep routine

If your sleep is particularly disturbed, then it’s easy for your mood to plummet, so perhaps the most important thing to do is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at a consistent time and practice good sleep hygiene.

Try light therapy

Light therapy can be helpful too. Some people have had great success using light boxes (Lumie are one example of light box manufacturers) and using them for just half an hour or so each day, can help combat symptoms of SAD.

Lead a healthy lifestyle

Lifestyle changes can also be useful. So ensure you eat healthily and don’t give in to cravings for comfort food too often and maintain a good exercise routine.

If none of the above help, it could be time to talk to your GP who will be able to diagnose seasonal affective disorder and offer you further support by way of talking therapies or if necessary, medication.

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