Lights

Winter Darkness Can Affect Your Sleep

You may have noticed that it’s dark a lot.

When you wake up. When you leave work. Winter is in full swing, and so is the darkness. Maybe you’re in the Southern Hemisphere as you read this. If this is the case, take a moment to thank your lucky stars.

Being in the dark so much can mess with your circadian rhythms and trick your body into never fully waking up. This is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain: when we see light our bodies know that it’s time to be awake, and when it’s dark, melatonin is released to send us off to sleep. If your brain always think it’s time to sleep, the get-up-and-go can become difficult.

This lack of daytime sun can also lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). The side effects of this wintery state include lethargy, insomnia, slump in mood, and anxiety, and it hits hard in places that are especially cold, snowy, or dark. This could be bad news for sleeping habits and cause victims to either sleep way too much or not enough.

There are ways of tricking your body into believing that you have more energy. For example, morning exercise can increase your mood and energy levels in the morning and help you wear out by nighttime. You can always resort to extra caffeine, too, which is obviously known for putting some extra pep in your SAD step.

If you’re really in need of an extra energy boost, then light shock therapy could be a great solution for you. This treatment involves light therapy (not shock therapy) by using artificial light to trick your circadian rhythms into waking up even when it’s dark outside. Regular exposure to bright, sun-like light gives your circadian rhythms the cues it needs to work properly again: setting your internal clock to wake in the morning and sleep at night.

Modes of light therapy include everything from alarm clocks that mimic the sunrise in your bedroom to artificial sunlight lamps that you can literally bask under. It’s been proven that this extra light goes a long way to keep you from feeling SAD.