Iowa Sleep Blog

How to Deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder and Saying Goodbye to the “Winter Blues”

Monday, December 08, 2014

With dropping temperatures and shorter days, it can be hard to feel cheerful and jolly during the cold winter months. If you (or someone you know) seem to drop into a funk you just can’t shake around this time each year, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the changing of seasons each year, usually beginning in the fall, continuing into winter and lessening in the spring and summer months. On rarer occasions, SAD also occurs during the summer months. There are millions of people across the globe, usually in latitudes high above the equator, that suffer each year from SAD, and women are more likely to experience SAD than men.

Just like depression, SAD affects your sleep habits by causing or worsening insomnia and hypersomnia.  Both sleep deprivation and too much sleep can have negative impacts on your health. Below are a few habits you can put into practice to ensure you are sleeping well at night and waking up refreshed the next morning.

  • Get as much sunlight as possible – Open your blinds and trim any trees or bushes around your windows to allow as much natural light as possible into the room. Keep them open and sit close to a window throughout the day, if possible. By increasing your exposure to sunlight, you are helping to keep your circadian rhythms balanced and your sleep cycles on track. 
  • Consider making small lifestyle changes throughout the day – Start small, like trading in your afternoon coffee for tea or switching a heavy meal for a salad or soup. Getting up from your desk every so often to walk around your office, choosing the stairs over the elevator, or walking to the mailbox instead of swinging by in the car counts, too!
  • Revamp your sleep hygiene – If you’re tossing and turning each night, consider changing a few of your sleep habits. Stop bringing electronics such as your computer, tablets or phones to bed with you. Instead leave them outside the bedroom or place them further than an arm’s reach away from your bed. If you watch the TV each night while falling asleep for noise, switch to radio and softy play a relaxing station as you drift off.

While the colder months aren’t always the easiest months to get through, remember they don’t last forever and warmer months are ahead. Take advantage of the fun activities you can only do during the winter, such as ice skating, drinking hot coco or going sledding. Get out and participate in holiday activities or take a tour of decorative holiday lights around your neighborhood or city.

For more tips on how to sleep better, check out some of the resources we offer at Iowa Sleep here. If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from SAD, contact your doctor, or give us a call. Our patients are our top concern, and more than anything, we want to help you experience a better night’s rest.