The summer is turning into autumn, and as well as the days becoming cooler, they’re becoming shorter as well. This means we get less and less exposure to that lovely sunlight.

Lots of people feel the effects of the darker winter months badly, and this condition is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD.

Experts believe that less sunlight can affect the hypothalamus in the brain, which can affect the following:

  • melatonin, the sleepy hormone: SAD sufferers produce more than normal levels
  • serotonin, the hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep: lower serotonin levels are linked to feelings of depression
  • the body’s internal clock, or Circadian Rhythm: sunlight is an important factor in controlling when you wake up, so lower light levels may disrupt your body clock

So what can you do to combat these symptoms? After all, we can’t change the seasons or the length of the days…but there are one or two things you can do to go into winter feeling armed against SAD:

  • get as much natural daylight as possible – even getting extra weak winter sunshine can make a difference
  • make your indoor environments as bright with natural light as possible – even sitting near windows when you can will help
  • get plenty of regular exercise, especially outdoors and in daylight
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet, including lots of Vitamin D. We usually get this from exposure to sunshine, and so this can drop in the winter as well. Oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified breakfast cereal are all good Vitamin D options.

If your symptoms are severe, you should of course visit your GP, who may prescribe light box treatment. This is a type of lamp that produces similar light to daylight, so you can get extra rays when that sun has gone down for the day.

Enjoy all the lovely cosiness that winter has to offer, but don’t forget to top up those sunshine levels whenever you can.