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Suffering from the winter blues? Try fixing your sleep!
As the days get longer and colder, many people have come to expect dips in their energy and mood. But are we too quick to self-diagnose? The truth is, many of the symptoms of SAD are the same as those of various sleep disorders. Scientists and researchers are still uncovering the complicated relationship between rest and mental health. What you might be assuming is the winter blues could be an underlying sleep disorder, which if treated, could improve your quality of life.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurrent period of depression, which for most people causes lower moods at the onset of autumn with symptoms easing in the spring. Each year, nearly 10 million Americans are affected, with women in particular being four times as likely to experience SAD. If you suffer from clinical depression, you’re more susceptible. Some of the most common symptoms are feelings of sadness, moodiness and irritability, difficulty concentrating, weight gain and hypersomnia (excessive sleeping or tiredness).
Experts believe that SAD is related to fluctuations with our melatonin production, a hormone that influences our sleep patterns and mood. Along with our melatonin balance, reduced exposure to sunlight (due to shorter periods of daylight during the winter) can also disrupt our circadian rhythm, our internal body clock that tells us when to sleep and when to wake.
Sleep disorders such as snoring, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are medical disorders that interfere with the timing, amount and quality of your sleep. Your time spent sleeping has an enormous impact on your time awake, causing changes in mood and energy. People with sleep disorders often suffer from morning headaches, irritability, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and unwanted weight gain.
Did you notice that the primary symptoms of both SAD and disordered sleeping overlap? In many cases, it can be hard to determine which came first. Is poor rest making you more susceptible to mood disorders (like SAD), or is a mood disorder causing you to have disordered sleeping? Either way, treating one will likely help the other.
It’s important to take care of yourself, especially around the holidays when we tend to put self care at the bottom of our “to do” list. Pay attention to changes in your sleep quality and mood. It’s normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you find your mood staying low for days at a time and/or you’re lacking motivation to participate in activities you normally enjoy, you should consult your doctor. They make recommend you do a sleep study to get a clearer picture of what’s going on while you’re resting.