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HOW TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES….

 

 

It’s thought the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.

We all lack energy from time to time but if it doesn’t improve then you should see your GP.

There are a number of conditions that can leave you feeling lethargic. Iron levels are one of the first things that can affect energy levels and cause tiredness.

An under-active thyroid is another cause of tiredness and the falling hormone levels that occur at the menopause.

Fatigue can also be a sign of diabetes.

If you are suffering from SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) this can also cause fatigue. 

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, some can cause daytime fatigue.

The main symptoms are – 

Key symptoms:

  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • lethargy
  • overeating
  • irritability
  • feeling down and unsociable

Of course, anxiety, stress and depression are also triggers for sapping energy levels. The best course of action is to go and visit your GP.

NHS Inform have ten tips on how to beat developing the winter blues – 

1. Keep active

Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. Read more about walking to get fit.

2. Get outside

Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

3. Keep warm

If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical help. Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half.

Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes, and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).

4. Eat healthily

A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Read more about healthy eating.

5. See the light

Some people find light therapy effective for seasonal depression. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day.

Light boxes give out very bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. They’re not available on the NHS and cost from around £29.99 or more.

“Some people find that using a dawn simulator [a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, that mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually] as well as a light box can enhance the beneficial effect,” says Pavlovich.

One of the most obvious ways to treat SAD is to get outside in the daylight for at least 20 minutes a day but 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.

6. Take up a new hobby

Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD, says Pavlovich. “It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal, or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on,” she adds.

7. See your friends and family

It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.

8. Talk it through

Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. See your GP for information on what’s available locally on the NHS and privately, or read this article on how to access talking treatments.

9. Join a support group

Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it’s like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable.

SADA is the UK’s only registered charity dedicated to SAD. It costs £20 (£10 for concessions) to join, and you’ll receive an information pack, regular newsletters, discounts on products such as light boxes, and contacts for telephone support.

10. Seek help

If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.

Read more about how SAD is treated.

Its the sunlight that tells your brain to produce serotonin, which is needed to boost our 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.

Also they say that Australian research found that taking vitamin D supplements for only five days in late winter 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’ve been away for your annual holiday in the summer, it will mean your levels should be fine until November.

Other sources of Vitamin D can be found in oily fish and eggs, cheese and poultry.

Research also suggests that eating carb-rich foods helps the brain take up tryptophan. You can also find supplements and The Food Agency recommends taking 10mcg a day.

Source: NHS Inform  

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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.