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  • Writer's pictureAtsuko

Lighting the Path: Your Winter Guide to Circadian Harmony

As I feel low in winter, last year I invested in a simple light therapy box. There were so many to choose from Amazon, with a few different types and prices. I bought mine under £30 and use it every morning in winter months. I cannot say it makes huge difference, but I do like sitting in front of it, so it feels like it’s helping.

On BBC Radio 4 programme Sliced Bread (a consumer programme), it covered the light box, and the effectiveness seems generally accepted. You can buy expensive ones, but hey, it’s only a light. How expensive does it have to be?


The reason many of us feel low in the winter is to do with circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour natural, internal clock in our brain that controls alertness and sleepiness. With low light in winter, we suffer from prolonged sleep inertia, the groggy feeling when the alarm goes off. Light box therapy seems to work to correct this.


Apart from the light box, what else we can easily implement? One of the best things to do is to go outside and perhaps go for a walk. This will tell your body that it’s time to be awake and active, and reset your circadian rhythm. There are special receptors in the retina which tell the brain to stop producing sleep hormone, and to produce cortisol hormone which helps fire up your brain to get active.

As for me, on some mornings in winter when it’s bright, instead of doing yoga, I go out for 20 minutes for a very light jog (I’m a poor runner!). It does improve my mood. And it is just light enough now at 7.30.

Vitamin D deficiency is another winter problem. Vitamin D helps to maintain strong bones and immune system. As vitamin D is produced on the skin upon exposure to sunlight, it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements in winter months. This is especially so if you have darker skin.

I cannot see any established link with Vitamin D and anxiey or low mood, but if it helps you stop catching another cold in winter, it’s one less misery to endure in the cold months!

Really, sunlight is an amazing gift. Apart from regulating our sleep and making vitamin D, exposure to day light can help to improve alertness, decision making, cognitive function, regulate mood and ward off depression and anxiety. Sunlight increases the release of the hormone serotonin, that helps boost your mood and feel calm.


And interestingly, daylight exposure may affect the hunger hormones, too. Daytime in sunlight can help support a healthier metabolism and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.


So what can we do to compensate the winter darkness until warm sunshine arrives? Well, apart from deciding to hibernate, here are 3 suggestions.

1.    Go outside in the morning if you can, and try to get exposed to daylight, even if it’s not sunny.

2.    Light box is inexpensive and may help.

3.    Take vitamin D


Happier healthier winter month! Spring is around the corner!


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