What is it and how to prevent it affecting your sleep – Words by Molly Goffin
With the changing of seasons and the darker days, many people find themselves suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD. SAD can impact your sleep quality. The experts at SleepSeeker have shared their expert advice on how to lessen SAD’s impact on your sleep and your overall well-being.
Kora Habinakova, a sleep expert at SleepSeeker has commented:
“SAD is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, usually in the autumn and winter period, as many people struggle when there is less natural light, which can affect serotonin and melatonin levels.
It can have a variety of impacts on your sleep pattern and sleep quality. Some people suffer from insomnia, caused by the disruption of their circadian rhythm, and have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Others struggle with hypersomnia, where they feel excessively sleepy and sleep for longer than normal.
SAD doesn’t only affect the length of time that you spend asleep, it can also impact the quality of the rest, with many people not feeling refreshed and well-rested. A good night’s sleep is vital for our overall well-being, so we recommend taking some steps to try and lessen SAD’s impact.”
5 ways to reduce SAD’s impact on your sleep:
Despite the days being darker and colder, we recommend that you still make the effort to spend some time outside. Any form of natural sunlight, even on cloudy days, can have a positive impact on your sleep quality and general mood. If you’re able to, take a longer lunch break or a mid-morning walk to increase the amount of time you spend outside during daylight hours.
We are exposed to less natural sunlight and fewer daylight hours during the autumn and winter months, so spending time outdoors can sometimes not be enough. Artificial light therapy is a good way to regulate your circadian rhythm and boost your mood. We recommend using a lightbox or a SAD lamp to increase your exposure to light.
Exercising regularly has a multitude of health benefits, including increasing serotonin levels in the brain. SAD results from a reduction in serotonin, so adding exercise to your daily routine can not only positively impact your mood and general well-being, but also help to alleviate other symptoms of SAD such as disturbed sleep.
Practising good sleep habits is always important, but especially so if you’re sleep is being impacted by SAD. You should try and avoid screens, like those of the TV and your mobile phone, as much as possible in the lead-up to bedtime to help improve your sleep quality.
If you suspect that you have SAD or are experiencing symptoms of depression consider contacting a mental health professional for professional diagnoses and a personalised treatment plan.