October 1, 2020:
Fall is awesome (except for pumpkin spice anything - it's just not for me), but the shorter days and cooling temperatures often have me feeling a little sleepier and a little quieter. This seasonal transition messes with most of our sleep cycles and can mean the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) for some.
Our sleep cycles are managed by the amount of light we receive. During the summer months, we have plenty of daylight and that can often mean we’re getting more and/or better sleep. During the fall and winter months when there’s not as much light available, we might feel sleepier and even need 1-2 additional hours of sleep each night.
Less light exposure can have a serious effect on mood, too. About 6% of the US population meets the diagnostic criteria for S.A.D., which is a type of depression that shows up around fall/winter and remits during spring/summer. For people who experience S.A.D., their circadian rhythm has a harder time adjusting to the seasonal change because of a decrease in serotonin production and an increase in melatonin production.
What can you do to ease the seasonal transition, whether you do or don’t experience S.A.D.? Keep a regular sleep schedule 7 days a week, waking and going to bed at the same times every day/night. Make sure the space you sleep in is dark and cool. Use a sunrise lamp for an alarm clock, or invest in a light box to sit in front of for 30 minutes each morning. During the day, get as much outdoor exercise as you can, since Vitamin D deficiency is linked with sleep disorders and depression. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria can also improve sleep and mood. Reduce sugar intake, eat fermented foods, get your Omega 3s, and stay hydrated. You can also talk with your doctor about supplements like 5-HTP, Calcium/Magnesium, probiotics, and Vitamin D.