Winter is here and we're all feeling more sluggish and blue. It’s dark out by 5 p.m. and when I wake up it’s still dark out and all I want to do is hide out at home eating chips and chocolate. Because I tend to feel down with the season’s grey skies, I’ve always been curious about seasonal affectiveness disorder (SAD). I had the chance to speak with sleep expert Robbin Coedy and pharmacist Sherry Torkos about what we can all do to make this winter season a little easier for any of us who feel a little more blue. Here’s what I found out.
For some people, they may experience a change in appetite or sleep pattern (which may be so minor that they may not even realize their patterns have changed), says Coedy. For others, though, their symptoms may be more serious and similar to those of depression. “Lack of motivation, depressive thoughts, or mood imbalances; you should seek the help of a therapist as soon as these symptoms start to interfere with your enjoyment or ability to go through your daily life,” she says.
“Exercise produces happy endorphins, increases blood flow, makes you feel good about yourself, and is generally great for both mind and body,” says Coedy. She recommends getting outdoors every day. One of the best ways to do this is to find an outside activity you enjoy; she suggests skiing, skating or even something as simple as going to the local coffee shop for a cup of tea.
While light therapy can be useful (“In studies it is just as effective as prescription antidepressants,” notes Coedy), she also cautions that less expensive light therapy tools may not do the job. “Most of the cheaper to mid-range lights don't expose you to the right wavelengths of light at the correct intensity. The lights actually have to be extremely bright to have an impact,” says Coedy, who is also the managing director of Pascoe Canada.
Even though you may be feeling less energy, you should try to keep your habits, including your sleep patterns, the same year round. Pay attention to your well-being, though; some people may need to make minor adjustments and may possibly benefit from a little bit more sleep in the wintertime, says Coedy.
In Canada in the winter, most people will benefit from a vitamin D supplement, as we do not get much exposure to sunlight as we need to make this important vitamin, says Coedy, adding that it can have a positive effect on mood. “Natural supplements such as Neurapas balance containing well-researched plans that work to stabilize sleep and mood are important for many people,” she says.
Pharmacist Sherry Torkos recommends looking for a natural remedy that helps with both sleep and stress. “A product that contains L-Theanine, chamomile, rhodiola and skullcap, such as Jamieson’s Healthy Sleep, can help reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and improve sleep quality,” she says. She notes that the time-release delivery system of this product also helps ensure you stay asleep through the night.
Both Coedy and Torkos also point to fish oil as being an essential during the winter months due to its mood-boosting and brain-health effects. “The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are important to the health of the nervous system and the function of our neurotransmitters--the chemical messengers in the brain that regulate mood,” says Torkos.
Previously published at W Dish.