Winter comes with months of waking ourselves in the absence of sunlight. Our sleep wake cycle or circadian rhythm is regulated by the rising and setting of the sun based on light and dark signals we perceive through receptors in our eyes. When we wake in darkness during the winter months, the lack of light from the sun impacts our natural hormonal responses. This can contribute to symptoms such as grogginess, fatigue, low mood and cravings many experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What can you do?
The use of light therapy lamps have been shown to reduce and even remit symptoms of low energy, mood and cravings in individuals with SAD. Using a light therapy lamp can help regulate your sleep cycle and keep you energized, happy and healthy during the winter months.
Light therapy lamps should have 10,000 lux (a unit of brightness based on distance) as well as indicate an approximate distance in which you should place that lamp from you. You should use your lamp for at least 30 minutes per day in the morning upon waking. Talk to your health care practitioner in you have Bipolar Disorder before use.
There are many alarm clocks on the market that act to mimic the natural sunrise. These are useful to help stimulate you to wake naturally in the mornings and provide your room with a warm happy glow. Dawn simulators are not considered light therapy lamps as they do not have 10,000 lux. They only mimic the sunrise to help you naturally wake up as they gradually brighten your room over a 30-minute period.
Minimizing bright light, specifically blue light at night also helps regulate your sleep cycle. What you can do:
- Download an app onto your electronic devices that turn your screens red when the sun goes down. Red light doesn’t impact your sleep cycle the way that blue or full spectrum bright light does.
- Blue light blocking glasses can be worn at night if you have bright lights in your home or need to get up in the middle of the night to use the washroom
- Red night lights-use red bulbs in your night lights and place them in your hallways and bathrooms if you are someone who tends to wake at night
- Ensure a dark bedroom! Invest in blackout blinds if you have street light coming through your windows or wear an eye mask!
If you continue to experience these symptoms or experience them all year round, talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about running your levels of B12, Iron, Vitamin D, Thyroid and Adrenal function.
Dr. Mallory Harris, ND
* The information presented in this article is intended solely for educational purposes and is not medical advice. You must always speak with your health care provider before beginning or modifying any approach to managing your health including diet, vitamins, minerals and botanicals. In no event shall Dr. Mallory Harris, ND, ESM clinics or Balance Fitness be liable in any manner for direct, indirect, incidental or punitive consequences that may arise from the access or use of this article.