How to cope with the dark winter days. Top tips and using a simulated sun-rise alarm clock
Summer is over and we are well into the autumn months with the falling of the leaves and the change of the clocks. At this point in the year the change in day light hours and drop in temperature (however it is still rather warm for the time of year) has an effect on how we feel. For some more than others. It has been well documented the link between the change in hours of day light and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (Golden et al. 656-662) occurring in 8% of the UK population. This affects your mood and as a consequence affects your behaviours being more withdrawn and entering episodes of seasonal depression. It is more common though to experience the “Winter Blues” which is called Sub-Syndromal SAD effecting 21% of the UK population. Feeling of low mood, over eating, difficulty in concentrating, these are all typical signs. The main trigger is the lack of stimulation of Sunlight which suppresses melatonin production which makes you sleepy. The best way to combat this is to boost your cortisol and endorphin levels by exercising, boosting your metabolism and raised levels of cognitive function at the same time or using a light box.
Other tips to help combat the winter blues:
· Keeping to a regular sleep wake pattern.
· Exercise in the morning to boost cortisol levels and reduce melatonin production.
· Use a 10,000 LUX light box for an hour a day or a simulated sunrise and dawn alarm clock.
· Vitamin D supplements to help with the natural production which is reduced from lower day light hours in winter. This can help with bone health, keeping a strong immune system, regulate weight and also help reduce chances of depression.
I have recently bought a simulated sun rise alarm clock and has been one of the best things I have bought in recent years! It is up there with my Garmin smart watch as a bit of modern tech which is a great addition to day to day life. Not just a fad.
The Phillips alarm clock is a 3000 LUX bulb which will simulate sun rise with a gradual increase in brightness as well as a change from a red to amber to bright white light. This will slowly light the room and also stimulates your retina in the back of your eyes to reduce the melatonin and bring you out of deep or R.E.M. sleep and gradually into a light sleep. If that's not enough a natural noise will sound at the time of the set alarm to bring you around instead of a harsh buzz of an alarm clock.
This can be less drastic than sitting in front of a 10000 LUX light box for 30-60 minutes a day and it is a very natural way to wake up instead of a horrid alarm tone. A great edition is that you can also set a simulated dawn so the sun will go down making the body think it's time to sleep. If you do this and reduce the blue light from TVs, tablets and phones to a minimum an hour prior to your proposed bed time you are more likely to fall asleep better. Also it is good to have the bedroom cooler as the core body temperature drops in your sleep so it helps the body to enter and remain in deep/R.E.M. Sleep instead of being hot, tossing and turning.
Tips for getting out of bed:
· DON’T snooze!
· Keep a regular wake up time – try to reduce the variation as much as possible and this will help your circadian rhythm, increasing your motivation and awareness in the mornings.
· Set your central heating to come on 30 minutes prior to you having to get out of bed to help with the shock.
· On the count of 3 get out of bed and don’t think about it just do it.
· Set up lunch / work clothes for the next day
· Get to bed at a sensible time so you get your needed sleep (6-8 hours for an average adult but this is very personal).
· Shower if that helps to wake you up. Studies have shown that a cold shower increases your testosterone levels as it is a stress response and will make you more awake.
· If you can try to get some exercise, walk, gym or cycle to work for the brave.
To survive the winter months and reach your potential every day consider some of the above points to avoid the winter blues. Don't just hold out waiting for spring, embrace the darkness and get the most of out the winter.
Golden, Robert N. et al. "The Efficacy Of Light Therapy In The Treatment Of Mood Disorders: A Review And Meta-Analysis Of The Evidence". American Journal of Psychiatry 162.4 (2005): 656-662. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.