How to beat the winter blues during the colder months


Have you been feeling blue since the clocks went back? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD affects one in fifteen Brits between the months of September and April, and is characterised by persistent low mood, irritability, and feeling sleepy during the day.

For those suffering from SAD, the winter months can be particularly difficult as symptoms are often made worse by the shorter days and reduced sunlight.

At its worst, the disorder is treated with antidepressants and UV light therapy but in milder cases, small lifestyle changes like getting a good night’s sleep, eating right and spending more time outside can be incredibly effective.

Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, shares these tips to help protect both your mood and your sleep, whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or your energy levels have simply dipped during the winter months.

Exercise

During the winter, people are often less motivated to exercise but it’s crucial to keep moving if you want to boost your mood. Exercise reduces stress hormone levels and enables you to sleep more deeply, which will make you better prepared for the day ahead.

Get outside

Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of the happy hormone – serotonin. In the winter your serotonin levels can dip, so try to get outside as much as possible. Even just half an hour on your lunch break will make a difference.

Eat right

The winter leaves many of us craving starchy carbohydrates and while these are a vital part of any diet, it’s important to strike a balance. If you need a snack, fill up on foods like walnuts, bananas and tomatoes; they all help your body to produce serotonin and will lift your mood.

Have a nap

Feeling run down during the day is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Naps should be between 10 and 20 minutes and be taken when you start to feel sleepy or find yourself losing concentration.

Be tech smart

Constant connection can negatively impact your mood. While it might be tempting to cuddle up with your iPad this winter, make sure you allow your brain to switch off in the evenings. Avoid social media accounts and emails for 90 minutes before bedtime.

In these colder months it can be difficult to get warm and cosy at night… It’s time for bed. You’re absolutely shattered after a long day and as you slide inside the covers, you begin to roll around trying to get comfy but realise that it’s far too cold!

Cold and draughty bedrooms can have a big impact on sleep. Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you are asleep, so 16-18°C is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C will make it difficult to drop off.

Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, says that “Ideally, in order for us to sleep well, there needs to be a fractional temperature difference between our body and our brain – a warm body and a cool head!”

When we sleep at night, every organ and emotional system in our body is healed. There is nothing worse for us than repeatedly not sleeping well, especially when it is weather related. We are meant to spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping, so what are we to do when the weather is making us feel uncomfortable?

Here are some tips on sleeping during those cold nights…

  • Swap out your lighter tog duvet to a higher tog duvet
  • Have a shower before bed, this will help you keep warm and drift off into a peaceful sleep
  • Be mindful of what you eat before bed, have a warm drink like Ovaltine with milk, it will help you relax and fall asleep
  • Ensure all windows are closed in the bedroom, the cold breeze can wake up anyone, including a heavy sleeper
  • Don’t fret. If you are struggling to sleep, it’s important to try and rest, thinking positively about the day ahead, rather than worrying about lack of sleep

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Last revised: 10 December 2019
Next review: 10 December 2020