Daylight savings time has ended for most of the country and the clocks have fallen back. That extra hour of sleep might feel nice for a day or two, but we are creatures of habit and it might take some time for our body to adjust to less sunlight. During the winter months when the sun isn’t out as much, our bodies tend to go into hibernation mode and we want to sleep more. However, our daily routines of going to work, chores, and activities keep us from giving into that need for more sleep, which can leave our bodies feeling a little confused and out of whack.
To be perfectly honest with you, this time of year is really tough on me. The transition from fall to winter is not a season that I look forward to. Give me all the sunny days in the spring and summer! It doesn’t help when the weather is cold and all of the green grass, trees, and flowers die. But, since I live in the midwest, where we are blessed to have all four seasons, I’ve come up with some ways that always help me perk up on those dark, gloomy winter days.
- Keep the same daily routine. This one is really hard to do when it’s cold out and all you want to do is stay snuggled up in bed, but this has got to be one of the most important tips in this list. Our bodies really like routines, we are habitual creatures, and sticking to a morning and nightly routine will keep those circadian rhythms plugging away. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up around the same time each morning, even on weekends, will help keep your body in balance. This also goes for the summer months when it’s light out at 9pm!
- Try to expose yourself to sunlight early in the day. This can be tough if you are waking up early before the sun rises and then getting home when the sun goes down. Try to sit by a well lit window or get physical activity outside in the sunlight. If you work in an office, getting out during the lunch hour will help tremendously. There are wake up lights that double as an alarm clock that mimic the sunrise made specifically for the winter months. I am thinking about getting this one. There are many options for light therapy now.
- When it is time for bed, make sure your room is as dark as possible. An hour before bed, try to turn off all electronic devices (phones, tablets, TV’s). The blue light emitted from electronics activates the pineal gland which produces serotonin, which will tell our body to stay awake. When we turn off the blue light, the pineal gland will produce melatonin, which will tell our body to relax and get sleepy. I am thinking about purchasing some blue light blocking glasses because I am on my computer or watching TV in the evenings. Sleeping in a totally dark room will tell our body to sleep as deeply as possible. Even the smallest amount of light from an alarm clock our street light is going to affect our body’s ability to get into that deep sleep. Purchase blackout curtains or a sleep mask like this one to help!
- Most people, especially during the winter months when we aren’t getting enough sunshine, are deficient in Vitamin D3. The body makes vitamin D when it activates with cholesterol when the sun hits our skin. Obviously in the winter months when the temps are a lot colder, we aren’t exposing a lot of skin to the sun on a regular basis. Supplementing with vitamin D3 can help with this. They call it the sunshine vitamin for a reason! Take the supplement with a meal that contains healthy fats so that it is more bioavailable for your body! You can also ask your doctor to test your levels to see if you are deficient and how much you should supplement with.
- Living in the midwest, wild caught seafood isn’t the most accessible protein, which is kind of a bummer because of all the amazing health benefits that seafood has! Wild caught seafood such as salmon, cod, and sardines have high amounts of omega 3s. Omega 3 fatty acids help fight inflammation, boost our mood and a ton of other things. Trying to incorporate more wild caught seafood into your diet or supplementing on the days you do not eat seafood can help.
- Limit caffeine. This one can be tough for some people. When we’re tired all the time and just looking for a boost of energy, caffeine is usually what we reach for to get us through the day. Unfortunately that is causing a lot more harm than good. In the moment it gets the job done but since caffeine stays in our system for up to 12 hours it can have a huge affect on sleep quality, anxiety, mood swings, and blood sugar balance. If you are going to drink caffeine, try to do it in the morning and stop by at least noon. Also, try to limit it to no more than 12 oz per day. Caffeinated drinks are pretty dehydrating so just be sure to up your water intake afterwards.
- Eliminate the processed foods and sugar. Sugar and simple carbs give us a serotonin hit that boosts our mood momentarily, but then we crash and end up feeling even more depressed. Our body ends up craving more sugar to get the “hit” to make us feel better again and then it’s just a vicious cycle. Our body might also be sending us these craving signals because we are deficient in other nutrients. Keeping blood sugar balanced is so important for keeping our mood in check and our sleep quality on point. Stick to whole foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, protein and healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocados, fatty proteins).
So there you have a few ideas to keep in your back pocket this fall and winter! Keeping our bodies nourished and in a healthy routine is so important for our mood and energy levels. Even though we are more active and happy during the summer months doesn’t mean that we can try to make the most out of the winter. And hey, if you are in desperate need for some sunshine, there is nothing wrong with taking a winter vacation!
Tell me, are you team summer or winter?