How on earth is it mid December already? Are you feeling festive? Got the tree up? Or is all the extra energy and cheer a bit too much for you?
As the song goes, ’tis the season to be jolly! Unless, of course, you are part of the 1 in 15 people in the UK with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In which case ’tis the season of feeling permanently exhausted and increasingly overwhelmed.
Sound familiar? Yep, me too. My first thought when I wake up is whether I’ll be able to grab a nap that day or if I’ll be able to get an early night. Whenever I sit down I find my head nodding and realise my eyes are actually closed. Fast forward to bedtime and as soon as I crawl under the duvet my brain decides its time to wake up and remember all the things I was meant to do during the previous 16 hours! My legs get twitchy and wonder why we didn’t go for that run we’d planned. I think of awesome blog post ideas and photo concepts (mostly forgotten by morning, or added to a never-ending to-do list on my phone).
The symptoms of SAD are very similar to that of depression; fatigue, oversleeping, feeling down/irritable and an inability to focus. It’s thought that the cause is a lack of sunlight in the winter months and therefore the lack of Vitamin D in our systems. Living in Scotland, I am all too familiar with the lack of sunshine so I already take a vitamin D supplement! You may also be able to get a light box from your doctor which will act as fake sunlight. I’ve not tried it but I know some people swear by it.
A rather non-scientific study recently carried out by Samantha Mann for Bust suggested that watching The Great British Bake Off was an excellent antidote for those suffering with SAD. Now, normally I’m all for cake being the answer but I fear it might take more than an unwelcome soggy bottom to shift the winter blues! One thing that is definitely worth doing though, is avoiding alcohol. Admittedly. that’s easier said than done at this time of year with all the festive parties and work do’s, not to mention the fact that alcohol is so ingrained in British culture. But alcohol is a depressant so it really is best avoided if you are already feeling down.
Alcohol also affects your quality of sleep which is fundamental for so many aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep affects your immune system, your cognitive ability, your concentration. You’ll have a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and weight gain. So, what can you do to ensure a good night’s sleep? Here’s a few things that work for me…
Relax before bed.
Give your brain a chance to wind down by having a bath, ignoring your phone and reading a book with a chamomile tea. If something does pop into your head, write it down and forget about it until morning.
Nothing beats that feeling of crawling under clean, fresh bedding!
Keep it cool
A cooler room helps your body maintain a consistent temperature, preventing night sweats and related insomnia.
It’s recommended we get about 8 hours sleep a night which is a third of every day, so it’s worth investing in your bed to ensure those 8 hours are as comfortable as possible. Your pillow should be changed regularly (6 months for a standard pillow, 3 years for memory foam) to avoid the midden of sweat stains & dust mites and also to ensure it’s providing enough support. Similarly, your mattress should be good quality (no lumps, bumps or wayward springs!) and be replaced every 8 years or so.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a serious mental health condition so if you feel you are suffering from “the winter blues” then it may be worth seeking the advice of your GP. In the meantime, try out some of the ideas above. They certainly help me keep my head above water at this time of year.
In collaboration with Tempur but all thoughts are honest and my own.