My mental health struggles are something I discuss openly here on Just The Three Of Us and within the wider online community. I suffer with severe anxiety and depression. During recent years I have begun to notice how my ability to control my symptoms fluctuates throughout the seasons. I do not have a diagnosis of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) however I definitely struggle with my mental health more than usual during the colder months.
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a mental health condition that affects roughly 1 in 15 people in the UK every year between September and April.
Typical symptoms of SAD are similar to that of depression. Symptoms include a lower than normal mood and a decreased ability to perform everyday tasks. During autumn/winter I am far less motivated to complete tasks I usually enjoy such as cleaning. I constantly feel sluggish, and often find myself requiring a nap during the day. I find getting outdoors hugely beneficial.
It is believed that SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight and vitamin D during autumn/winter months. A lack of sunlight and vitamin D causes problems with our circadian rhythm. The production of melatonin and serotonin is also affected. Melatonin is the main hormone involved in sleep, it plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm. This rhythm controls aspects of our body’s hormone release, temperature and sleeping pattern. Melatonin levels rise when it’s dark, whereas serotonin levels increase in sunshine and light environments. Melatonin helps you get to sleep and serotonin helps you feel awake when you wake.
The severity of SAD differs from person to person.
Some people may experience feelings of mild irritation, whereas others may become depressed and anxious. Severe cases of SAD can have a huge impact on a sufferer’s every day life. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD should be treated in the same way as other types of depression. Suggested treatments include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or antidepressants. Light therapy is an incredibly popular treatment for SAD, although according to NICE, the effectiveness of light therapy is not clear.
We all know that in order to be able to function at a normal level, we need to sleep. Adults should be getting approximately 7-9 hours of sleep per night, however, this can prove difficult for SAD sufferers. Good quality sleep is hugely important for those suffering with seasonal affective disorder, a rested mind and body is the ultimate foundation for managing SAD. I know from personal experience that a bad night’s sleep can have a hugely negative impact on my mood and well-being.
Tossing and turning throughout the night isn’t fun for anyone.
I often lay awake at night unable to sleep. I find sleep aids such as heated eye masks and sleep sprays hugely beneficial. Reading a book really helps me to unwind, but perhaps the basis of a good night’s sleep begins with the bed itself. No amount of book reading and pillow spraying will aid your sleep if you don’t have a mattress and/or pillow that suits your needs.
If you think your mattress could be affecting your sleep, I’d definitely consider investing in a new, high quality mattress that suits your needs. There are mattresses available which relieve pressure and mould to the shape of your body and sleeping position which are perfect for those who suffer with SAD or sleep issues. Until recently I owned a basic coil mattress and my sleep routine was non existent – I couldn’t rest properly at all and even when I did, I woke with aches and pains and a feeling of lethargy from uncomfortable and broken sleep.
The impact a higher quality mattress has made to my general well being is phenomenal.
The right pillow is just as important as choosing the right mattress. Pillows support our heads, necks and shoulders. Aches and pains caused by a lack of support from your pillow could be contributing to your inability to sleep restfully. I know from personal experience that sore shoulders or a crooked neck can massively impact your mood. If you have difficulty sleeping or you suffer from SAD, I’d definitely recommend investing in high quality ergonomic and supportive pillows.