A Consistent Sleep-Wake Routine Could Be Essential For Overcoming Seasonal Depression

Getting the best quality sleep is vital to having more productive days and a successful and healthy life overall. Sleep can be a simple yet effective way of resetting your mind and body for the next day. Without a good sleep routine, you could face many physical and mental challenges throughout your day.

Another factor that can make it difficult to have a productive day is a form of seasonal depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also referred to as SAD, this type of depression occurs around the change of the season, typically during late fall. According to Cleveland Clinic, around 5% of adults in the U.S. experience a form of SAD, while 10 to 20% experience a milder form which is more commonly known as the "winter blues." Seasonal depression can affect your energy levels and your mental health as you begin to feel more fatigued and sad, and lose interest in your favorite activities. While many adults suffer from SAD, some are unaware of how to move forward when dealing with it each season.

While there are many resources and tools you can turn to for help, there are also simple lifestyle changes you can make to help overcome your seasonal depression. Good quality sleep is key when dealing with seasonal depression. Not only does sleep help you feel well-rested but it can give your brain the perfect opportunity to combat symptoms of the disorder.

What is a sleep-wake routine?

One of the easiest ways you can help yourself combat seasonal depression is by implementing a sleep-wake routine. A sleep-wake routine involves choosing a set time to go to bed and wake up in the morning. "Establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it, even on weekends," Colleen Wenner, the founder and clinical director of New Heights Counseling, tells Sleep.com. "Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening, and limit screen time before bed."

Having a set sleep routine will help your brain establish when it is time to get up versus when it is time to go to sleep. One of the symptoms of seasonal depression is an excess of sleep, which can make daily activities harder to accomplish. A set routine will help you nap less throughout the day, avoiding any conflict with your responsibilities or interests.

PsychCentral adds that oversleeping during the winter season can help contribute to seasonal depression and leave you feeling more fatigued and without energy. When establishing your sleep-wake cycle, you want to ensure you get a full eight hours of sleep. Anything over eight hours will increase melatonin, making you feel restless and groggy throughout the day. Having these firm sleep and wake times will help you have more energy and maintain your mood throughout the day.

Other ways to combat seasonal depression

Besides having a set time to wake up and go to sleep, there are other lifestyle changes you can implement to help you combat seasonal depression. Dr. Gabriela Cora, MD, a psychiatrist and medical director with Aetna Behavioral Health, tells Aetna, "Focus on the four pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, and relaxation. Plan more outdoor activities, and eat more plant-based foods." While nutrition and exercise are two factors that seem less important when suffering from seasonal depression, they can be beneficial to your mind and body. Getting adequate exercise and eating a well-balanced diet will help you get the dopamine and nutrition you need to help your mood and energy increase during this time.

Another factor you want to be aware of is increasing your exposure to light. Whether this is natural or artificial light, getting any source of light is key for improving your mood. Because your access to natural sunlight might be minimal during the winter season, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends turning to light therapy. Light therapy involves using light lamps to mimic exposure to sunlight in the morning to balance your circadian rhythm. Having light exposure helps wake up your brain in the morning and tricks your brain into avoiding the gloomy weather. If you plan to use light therapy, be sure you expose yourself to sunlight within one hour of waking up to ensure your circadian rhythm signals to your brain that it is time to get the day started.