With the clock change just around the corner, and the nights already drawing in, even the cheeriest amongst us might feel a little gloomy.
The change of season can dramatically affect sleeping habits and in turn mood and general health and well being with up to 20 per cent of us suffering from the winter blues. The decrease in natural light can leave us feeling worn out and tired and for some of us this leads to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
These easy tips from Sleep Expert Dave Gibson (via bed makers Warren Evans) should help you feel yourself again, whatever the weather.
- Problem – Low Serotonin: Many of us feel a drop in our mood as the light starts to decrease in the darker autumn nights, and one of the main factors is a reduction in serotonin levels in our brains. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is commonly linked to mood. Recent research has shown that the level of serotonin in the brain decreases in response to a decrease in light, possibly linked to a prehistoric seasonal pattern, which naturally slows down in the winter.
- Solution – Increase Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid known as a building block of serotonin production in your body. There are two ways to increase its level in your body: one is exercise, and the other via tryptophan-rich foods, including turkey (one of the best sources), meat, avocados, bananas, cottage cheese, walnuts, soy protein, tomatoes, milk and coriander as well as starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, bread, pasta and potatoes.
- Problem - Low Vitamin D: Another factor is a decrease in levels of Vitamin D. This is the vitamin that is created in the skin by ultraviolet B (UVB) component of sunlight. A recent study linked mood change to Vitamin D, with low levels of Vitamin D associated with depression. With the decrease in sunlight, we are less likely to absorb the amount of Vitamin D we need to feel good.
- Solution – Get out more, and open the curtains and blinds: Being out in the sun boosts our mood, improves sleep, and promotes Vitamin D production, so try to let as much light into your day as possible and be sure to make use of your lunch break by going for a walk outside. If you’re really low and struggling then organic Vitamin D supplements are available but you should always consult your GP before taking these.
- Problem - Low Melatonin: Serotonin is also used to make melatonin, the sleep hormone which is produced in the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland produces more melatonin at night in the absence of light, which is produced to regulate our sleep cycle. Adults who suffer from SAD tend to have a long duration of melatonin production, which means that their bodies are producing melatonin long before they go to bed and long after they have to wake up.
- Solution – See the Light: There are many options available to help create the natural light your body is craving. One popular option is the use of a light box in the morning, which is now well documented as increasing levels of serotonin and melatonin. Lumie lights are specially designed to treat SAD - find them here.
For more top tips throughout October, visit the Warren Evans website - click here.
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