Can't get out of bed in the morning?
Are you like me and find it increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the morning now that it's perpetually dark? Or even more like me where it's getting up, moving, feeling motivated and generally staying awake that are an issue in the winter months? (Not great when you are trying to run and build a business eh?).
That everlasting feeling of being 'drained' is utterly horrid (give me sunny mornings and long evenings and I'm up at the crack of dawn! Currently however, I'm pressing snooze at least three times - and that's being optimistic!).
You're not alone!
Many people suffer with tired and sluggish feelings during the winter. This is due to lack of sunlight, which disrupts our sleep and waking cycles.
Here's a few tips to get you feeling a bit more like 'you'.
The lack of sunshine during the winter months means your brain produces more melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy).
Try to get as much natural daylight as possible!
Open curtains/blinds to let daylight in. Use public transport to get to work? Get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way. Go for a walk in your lunch break. Make sure your work and home environments are as light and airy as possible!
Still not enough? Try a daylight alarm clock! These wake you up by mimicking sunrise. (There's a huge range of styles and prices available for every budget, and they have been shown to improve the wellbeing of those suffering from the darkness).
In the UK we get such little sunshine that many people suffer from vitamin D deficiencies. This is a vitamin that can only be produced by the body from natural sunlight. It then helps the absorption of calcium to the bones and regulates phosphate in the body. These keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy and strong.
Recent UK guidelines have suggested that all children and adults over the age of one should take an appropriate supplement (amounts dependant on age). It's worth speaking to your GP, Pharmacist or Dietician to find out the appropriate amount for you.
Get a good nights undisturbed sleep!
An undisturbed nights sleep is vital. However; sleeping too much may make you feel even worse! Try sticking to a routine of going to sleep and waking up the same times throughout the week. General guidelines suggest around 8 hours sleep, but may vary person to person. As difficult as it is, try to figure out what works best for you and stick to it.
Make sure your bedroom makes you feel relaxed. Don't allow it to be a place for work. Turn off the TV, don't have food in there, clear clutter, have comfortable, clean and warm bedding. And invest in a good pillow to offer the right support for your head and neck, reducing risk of neck, back and shoulder pain (something all too common due to our daily lives in front of computer screens and on our phones).
Avoid scrolling through your phone before bed. Some evidence suggests the blue light found on phones etc is bad for your sleep.
The blue wavelengths found on screens has been shown to be beneficial during daylight hours by increasing mood and attention..
However; Harvard researchers found that at night blue light significantly suppresses the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy).
The research also suggests there can be long term health effects linked to this such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity. They therefore recommend as well a generally healthy lifestyle to ensure you get plenty of safe sunlight exposure throughout the day. Particularly if you are someone that works night shifts or spends a lot of time in front of a screen.
It might be the last thing on your mind in the cold and dark! But exercise releases adrenalin that makes you feel more energetic, awake and healthy!
There are different pieces of research suggesting certain times of day for exercises.....but ultimately, it's what works for you! If you prefer exercising in the morning and strolling home in the evening - go ahead! If you prefer exercising in the evening - go ahead! All that really matters is that you keep yourself active and reap the rewards! Not only will it improve your physical health, it will also significantly benefit your mental health - hugely important for those that suffer with winter induced depression (SAD syndrome).
UK government guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can include walking! Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day to get yourself moving! New to exercise? Take your time! Find something that is easy on the joints and gradually helps build your fitness levels.
Don't try to fit everything in to the reduced daylight hours. Stress has been linked to fatigue.
Stress is different for everybody and therefore there's no 'one trick fits all'. Make sure you find a bit of time each day to implement something that you enjoy and offers both mental and physical relaxation. This may be something like going for a walk, reading, yoga, breathing exercises or mindfulness. There are lots of apps available that allow you to meditate or practice mindfulness daily.
If you are suffering from stress, feelings of depression or are generally struggling; speaking to a qualified counsellor/therapist may be an effective way to begin the process to feeling like 'you' again. You can find these in private settings and via a GP referral to the NHS.
Eat the right food!
Being over or underweight can adversely energy levels.
It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet - not just comfort foods that are high in pastry, bread, pasta and sugars etc.
Comfort foods can be healthy! Use winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede to make warming soups, casseroles or roasts!
Avoid that 'sweet tooth' craving when longing for more energy. High sugared foods give you a rush of energy, which wears off quickly leaving you in a slump! That doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself now and again though! Who doesn't like to indulge every now and again (note the 'every now and again').
What to do if you still don't feel great?
Excessive tiredness, lethargy and fatigue shouldn't be put down to 'just the winter months'.
It is important to seek medical advice if you are noticing the following symptoms, or anything else unusual about your health:
- unexplained weight loss
- unexplained weight gain
- painful or swollen joints
- pain in general
- dizziness or faint
- excessive thirst
- increased toilet use
- stomach pains
- dark circles under eyes
- pale/grey complexion
- any other unusual symptoms to your health
If you are experiencing these or others contact your GP for an appointment as soon as possible to eliminate any health issues. Examples may include diabetes, anaemia, cancers or many more.
Don't ignore your health! If you don't feel right, get it investigated as soon as possible! It may be something really simple that can be solved easily!
Moreover, enjoy the winter months! Make the most of this beautiful season!