How Sleep can Help with Seasonal Depression

Posted by Veronica O'Brien on

Daylight saving is a concept that doesn't seem to make much sense in today's day and age. History states that changing the time twice a year helped give farmers extra daylight hours, but present-day, it just seems like a form of torture. Leaving class at 5:00 pm to a pitch-black night sky and struggling to find the motivation to work on schoolwork when it feels like 11:00 pm sums up the common agitation with daylight's saving. Moreover, as daylight becomes scarce, mental health tends to suffer for many who deal with the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder every year.

How The Seasons Impact Sleep

Our bodies are thrown off during the winter months due to the reduced amount of natural sunlight we receive. As a result, those who struggle with seasonal-related depressive symptoms also find themselves much more tired throughout the day. Even without frequent naps, these individuals may sleep longer at night and still wake up feeling groggy and tired. Researchers found that people with seasonal affective disorder sleep, on average, two additional hours each night in the winter compared to the summer months. Moreover, our mood is directly related to sleep, so feeling tired can also cause depression and anxiety. It's a cruel cycle of sleep causing mental health problems and mental health problems causing sleep issues.

It's a challenging cycle because the workload doesn't end despite our bodies wanting to hibernate. In fact, for many college students, November and December are busy months as they cram for final exams and papers. Additionally, a new semester starts in January, which opens the floodgates for a fresh pile of work. So how does one function optimally when their body is not equipped to manage the excessive darkness?

Fight Fire with Fire

As paradoxical as it sounds, a great way to stave off the excessive sleepiness that accompanies the winter months is sleep. More specifically, a sleep routine can help ensure you are sleeping enough without oversleeping. As wonderful as sleep feels when it's dreary outside, too much sleep can disrupt the body's natural rhythm and cause increased fatigue. Basically, getting too much sleep can zap your energy. To make sure your fatigue isn't a result of oversleeping, setting a sleep routine and sticking with it can help.

If you struggle with insomnia despite feeling tired, then we have a possible solution for that problem too! Consider your sleeping environment. Is it dark enough? Is it quiet enough? Is it comfortable enough? If your answer to any of those questions is a "no," then you'll want to evaluate your space and try to make it more conducive for a good night's rest. Cut the excess light (including the TV) from your room and consider a white noise machine to block out any noise from outside or a roommate. A great way to ensure your bed is comfortable without breaking the bank is investing in a mattress topper, as they can spruce up a dorm bed without getting a whole new mattress.

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