How To Beat The Blues During The Colder Months

Half face of sleeping brunette under blanket

Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan shares her top tips for staying positive and energised

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects one in 15 Brits between September and April, and is characterised by  persistent low mood, irritability, and feeling sleepy during the day. For those suffering with SAD, the winter months can be particularly difficult as symptoms are often made worse by the shorter days and reduced sunlight.

At its worst, the disorder is treated with antidepressants and UV light therapy but in milder cases, small lifestyle changes like getting a good night’s sleep, eating right and spending more time outside can be incredibly effective.

Whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or your energy levels have simply dipped as we approach the winter months, these tips from Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan will help protect both your mood and your sleep.


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During the winter people are often less motivated to exercise, but it’s crucial to keep moving if you want to boost your mood. Exercise reduces stress hormone levels and will give you a clearer and more positive outlook on life; it also enables you to sleep more deeply which will make you better prepared for the day ahead.

Get outside

Beautiful Scottish riverside footpath in autumn

Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of the happy hormone serotonin. In the winter your serotonin levels can dip so try to get outside as much as possible. Even just half an hour on your lunch break will make a difference, or kill two birds with one stone and exercise outside; getting as much light as possible will help to reset the body’s circadian rhythm.

Eat right

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The winter leaves many of us craving starchy carbohydrates and while these are a vital part of any diet, it’s important to strike a balance. If you need a snack, fill up on foods like walnuts, bananas and tomatoes; they all help your body to produce serotonin and will lift your mood.

Diet also plays a significant role in the quality of sleep we have. It’s best to avoid having a heavy meal before bedtime. If you often wake up in the night feeling hungry, then try having a little snack before bedtime.

Have a nap

Half face of sleeping brunette under blanket

Feeling lethargic during the day is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Learning how to power nap is a great way of combating this. Naps should be between 10 and 20 minutes and be taken when you start to feel sleepy or find yourself losing concentration. Many people have a natural dip in energy levels around 3pm – making it the ideal time.

Be tech smart

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Pic: iStockphoto

Information overload and constant connection can negatively impact your mood. While it might be tempting to cuddle up with your iPad this winter, make sure you allow your brain to switch off in the evenings. Avoid social media accounts and emails for 90 minutes before bedtime. Instead read a book, listen to relaxing music and have a bath using relaxing essential oils. A regular wind down routine like this will reduce feelings of anxiety and allow your mind to relax; making sure you get a good night’s sleep and preparing you for the day ahead.

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For more information and further advice, check out Dr Nerina’s Sleep Toolkit . . .

Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!