With the time change in November come longer nights. The decrease in natural light can affect our body's production of serotonin, vitamin D, and melatonin, leaving us feeling worn out and tired, and for some of us, with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Luckily, these easy tips from Dave Gibson, a U.K. sleep expert, should help you feel yourself again, whatever the weather.
Problem: low serotonin
Many of us feel a drop in our mood as the light starts to decrease, and one of the main factors is a reduction in serotonin levels in our brains. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is commonly linked to mood.
Solution: Increase tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid known as a building block of serotonin production. There are two ways to boost tryptophan levels in your body: by working out or by eating tryptophan-rich foods. These include turkey (one of the best sources), avocados, bananas, cottage cheese, walnuts, and milk. Starchy carbs, like brown rice, pasta, and potatoes, are also rich in this mood-lifting amino acid.
Problem: low vitamin D
D is the vitamin that is created in the skin by ultraviolet B (UVB), a component of sunlight. A recent study linked depression to low levels of vitamin D. With the decrease in sunlight, we are less likely to absorb the amount of vitamin D we need to feel good.
Solution: Let the sunshine in. Try to get as much light into your day as possible. Open the curtains and blinds if you're home. During the week, try to go for a walk outside during a lunch break; spend part of the weekends outdoors, too. If you’re really low, then vitamin D supplements are available. But ask your doctor before you start taking any supplements.
Problem: low melatonin
Serotonin is also used to make melatonin, the sleep hormone which is produced in the brain. At night, the brain produces more melatonin to regulate our sleep cycle. Adults who suffer from SAD tend to have a longer duration of melatonin production, which means that their bodies are producing melatonin long before they go to bed and long after they have to wake up.
Solution: Get a light. There are many ways to help create the natural light your body is craving. One popular option is the use of a light box in the morning, which is now well documented as increasing levels of serotonin and melatonin. Ask your doctor for recommendations, or check out Verilux, which make some reasonably priced ones.
via Yours U.K.