How to Survive the Winter Months
The darker, shorter days can really sap our energy so here are some helpful tips to support your circadian rhythm and in turn, your health and wellbeing during the winter months.
Change your routine so that it is more aligned with the current season. Our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake) cycle is very much attuned to the natural light and so during the winter months, I would encourage you to change your routine slightly. For example, a combination of early 6am alarms, and late nights might just be increasing cortisol levels, which we know has an impact on many other hormones and processes. Instead, try to rise with the sun and wind down with the sun set (if work or children allow!). Instead of pushing yourself to do that evening work out, try to move this forward to a lunchtime or morning workout. If you cannot rise with the sun, I highly recommend a Lumie alarm clock, which will wake you up gradually with light (as opposed to a loud alarm).
Get out in nature! This is probably the last thing you want to do when it's cold outside but numerous studies have proven the benefits to mental health to get out into nature with a simple walk. In addition, studies have shown that light therapy can increase serotonin (our 'happy' hormone) levels and so it's quite convincing that there is a link between natural light and happiness.
Avoid blue light late into the night. Blue light emitted from mobile phones, computers and the tv, stimulates cortisol (our 'stress' hormone), which we ideally want to drop off after 4pm. However, over stimulation of blue light can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and impact our sleep. Aim to turn all devices off by 9pm so that you can fully wind down.
This moves me onto my next point - sleep. As I mentioned earlier, it might be helpful to switch up your routine slightly and with that, aim to get at least 8 hours sleep per night. Melatonin (our 'sleep' hormone) peaks at around 2am so for an uninterrupted deep sleep, we really want to aim to be in bed by 10pm and sleep shortly after. Late nights may impact melatonin production, reducing its ability to peak and therefore disturbing sleep.
Finally, there are certain foods to include and reduce/avoid to support the circadian rhythm. Caffeine can increase cortisol levels, as can excess sugar. Be aware of all caffeine sources, such as dark chocolate, caffeinated fizzy drinks as well as the obvious coffee & tea. Cut out all refined sugar and processed carbohydrates in order to balance and maintain stable energy levels. Foods that increase melatonin that can help support a restful sleep include tart cherries and tart cherry juice, eggs, milk, fish and nuts.