Springtime, Sunshine, Optimism, and Improved Sleep
Last updated: April 2023
Without fail, each winter season my mood tanks.
As the days get shorter and shorter, the sun hides more than it's found, and the temperatures in the midwest get extremely cold, I find myself struggling.
Those changes in my environment cause my depression to increase, my energy to decrease, and my overall disposition to hover somewhere around constantly lethargic.
Seasonal affective disorder during the winter
Living with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) means that I have to work much harder in the winter to concentrate, to stay motivated, to have fun, and to take good physical and mental care of my body.
It means that I am always really, really tired, but I tend to sleep poorer. I spend more hours in my bed, in some version of dozing, convincing myself that I'm resting even if I'm not sleeping – but it's not true.
Exhaustion and restlessess
I constantly feel both exhausted and restless, a challenge amplified by the circumstances causing SAD – lack of daylight, lack of warmth, and lack of sunshine. I often find myself searching for chances to nap mid-day, or find myself chugging another cup of coffee at lunch, wondering how I can be this tired and somehow still functioning at the same time.
Sometimes I actually feel like I'm both sleeping and walking, and then I realize it's just wishful thinking. What feels most cruel, for me, is that even though I sleep "more," I feel rested less.
A double-whammy: SAD and insomnia
Contrasting my "regular" insomnia, I struggle harder and in different ways to sleep while managing SAD. Falling asleep is less of a struggle, but staying asleep feels impossible. Sometimes I sleep in 20- or 30-minute stretches. Other times, I can get 1 to 2 hours at a time, but then I'm up again.
This goes for both naps and overnights, meaning that at no point do I truly get a chunk of sleep or enough time for my body to recognize I'm trying desperately to give it what I know it thinks it needs.
My frustration with insomnia skyrockets. I also wonder how SAD would affect me if I didn't have a sleep disorder.
A welcome change of seasons
Now, the silver lining of living with SAD is the transition to springtime. I start to notice around late February or early March each year that we see more sunshine, and even if the temperatures are still chilly, I am instantly in a better mood. I can think clearer, I get inspired again, and I stop finding myself fighting for a midday rest.
Feeling more energized during the day
Also, it gets lighter earlier in the mornings, and I find that I am starting my days with a bit more pep in my step. Even though my insomnia baseline means that I always live in some general state of tired, I am renewed and energized during the day, which allows me to rest better at night. I'm even able to sleep for longer periods of time again, which truly is a game-changer for my overall mood.
The springtime clears away the winter funk, the one that makes me feel like I should permanently hibernate. Does anyone else think it's no wonder bears sleep all winter!
Do you experience painsomnia?