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SLEEP SUNDAY – IS IT SAD YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM OR SOMETHING ELSE?…

At this time of year, one in eight of us can suffer from winter blues and one in 50 of us suffer from SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) through lack of sunlight. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, these figures could double.

It’s the sunlight that tells your brain to produce serotonin, which is needed to boost your mood and energy. Lack of it as autumn turns to winter causes an increase in the production of melatonin (which makes us sleepy) and a reduction in serotonin is what can cause depression.

One of the most obvious ways to treat SAD is to get outside in the daylight for at least 20 minutes a day but you can also invest in a light box. Light therapy is the most effective way of decreasing the symptoms. Also it is believed that eating foods rich in an amino acid called tryptophan increases the amount of serotonin in the brain.

Taking vitamin D supplements for only five days in late winter has also improved the mood of people with SAD. It can also prevent osteoporosis, support immunity, and regulate weight. Of course, the best way to get Vitamin D is through the effects of sunlight on bare skin. Amazingly they say that Vitamin D lasts for 60 days in the body so if you got away for your annual holiday in the summer, it will mean your levels should be fine until November, but most of us missed out on this last year. Other sources of Vitamin D can be found in oily fish and eggs, cheese, and poultry. Your GP can check your Vitamin D levels with simple blood tests and put you on a high dose of Vitamin D if you need it so it is well worth having a word with your GP about this.

There are a number of other conditions that can leave you feeling tired. Iron levels are one of the first things that can affect energy levels and cause tiredness. It could be an under-active thyroid which can be a cause of tiredness and the falling hormone levels that occur at menopause.

As well as the above, some medications can also cause lethargy, including beta-blockers, some antihistamines, codeine-based painkillers, and also some antidepressants. Also, some sleeping tablets may help to get you through the night, but some can cause daytime fatigue. Of course, anxiety, stress, and depression are also triggers for sapping energy levels which are unfortunately affecting many people at the moment. Fatigue can also be a sign of diabetes.

It is a well-known fact that we can suffer from a mid-afternoon slump as our bodies are designed to have two periods of sleep.

According to the NHS, we are most likely to feel a slump at around 2.16pm as this is about the time that your cortisol level drops, and along with it so can your mood, focus, and motivation. Researchers now say that if you drink iced water, this may help to make you feel more awake by setting off tiny pain triggers.

Other things to try are changing your routine, i.e. walking a different root to work, cleaning your teeth with your left hand. Apparently, the brain responds to these experiences by releasing a rush of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which can make us more alert.

According to Pain News Network, a pilot study has found Green Light Therapy improves Fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia patients exposed to green light therapy had significant improvements in their pain, sleep and quality of life, according to a new pilot study published in the journal Pain Medicine.

The small clinical trial by researchers at the University of Arizona is the first to explore the benefits of green light in treating fibromyalgia symptoms. Previous studies have focused on green light therapy as a treatment for migraine headaches. Green light is believed to have a calming effect on the brain and causes less eye strain.

In addition to less pain, patients also reported better mood and sleep, and improvements in their ability to work, exercise and perform chores. Eleven patients said they also reduced their use of pain medication, including opioids, while being exposed to green light.    

Although more research is needed to fully understand how green light therapy works, some commercial products are available to the public without a prescription. Details of which you can find on Pain News Network.

There are also a number of SAD Lights available from Amazon with some having a choice of three colour modes, and although not the exact ‘Green Light’, they do work on the same basis. The ones I found started from £39.99 so they are not too expensive if they do the trick.

Another example is this FITFORT Alarm Clock Wake Up Light-Sunrise/Sunset Simulation Table Bedside Lamp Eyes Protection with FM Radio, Nature Sounds and Touch Control Function. Simply set your alarm time. The clock will gradually brighten from 10% Brightness to 100% in 30 minutes before the alarm time / dimmed from 100% Brightness to 0% in 30 minutes before the bedtime. It guides you to a restful natural sleep and develop a good sleep pattern. It’s a reasonable £25.99 from Amazon.

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HOW THE RIGHT SORT OF LIGHT IN YOUR HOME CAN EFFECT MENTAL HEALTH IN A POSITIVE WAY…

I’ve read many articles in the past on how light is important to health and can effect mental health in a positive way.

In an article in Forbes they said that ‘Bad lighting is associated with a range of ill-health effects, both physical and mental, such as eye strain, headaches, fatigue and also stress and anxiety in more high-pressured work environments. … A third (32%) said better lighting would make them happier at work.’

However, lighting can come in through lots of different ways but daylight is the key to the best lighting. Healthline wrote that ‘Decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in your serotonin levels, which can lead to major depression with seasonal pattern. The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes in through the eye.’

So how can we get a good light into our homes now the days are getting shorter? There are special ‘Sad Lightswhich have been around to help people suffering from the condition Sad (Seasonal Affective Disorder). But direct light from outside is the perfect pick up.

The colour palette inside your home and the right discounted windows is what has made the biggest difference for me personally. As most of my readers know we moved three months ago from the East Midlands to West Sussex. We down sized big time and bought a small new build.

Our old home had the biggest windows at the back of the house and my husband was quite anxious about whether our new home would be much darker but it couldn’t be further from the truth if you have the right windows and colour scheme in your home.

The right discounted windows like our small ones work perfectly with white walls which I am sure help light reflect throughout. Every friend that has been to see us has commented on how light our house is even on a dark day.

My bedroom is my sanctuary and has two windows which I have had fitted with Venetian blinds mainly for privacy but I decided on white for most of the windows and it’s still lovely and light. We’ve bought curtains for our bedrooms but haven’t rushed to get some for downstairs and have now decided we won’t bother as we just love the light streaming in and it’s still cosy when it goes dark.

Artificial light can change your sleeping pattern from the natural rhythm of two four-hour phases broken by an hour of wakefulness to a single eight-hour phase each night and disrupts your circadian rhythm. That’s why it is important that you use as much natural light as possible. Opening up your windows and curtains and light darker areas of your home with lamps that emit natural light. My regular Sunday post Sleep Sunday, Let’s Talk About Sleep explains lots of ways to help you sleep which is so important to any chronic pain sufferer.

They say that bright colours are happy colours for your home and can boost communication so are especially welcome in the dining area and kitchen but you can get your happy colours in accessories instead of painting all your walls.

I decided I would give each room its own accent colour and it certainly works for me. My lounge has royal blue as it’s accessory colour which I introduced by adding cushions, plant pots and pictures that have some blue in them. My kitchen’s access colour is grey and green. Upstairs my guest bedroom’s accent colour is also green which is really popular this year and our bedrooms accent colour is grey and pink which is peaceful and cosy.

The brightness in my new home has certainly lifted me over the last three months. I hope you enjoy some of my images of our cosy new home. Do comment and tell me what your favourite colours for the inside of your home are.