Midweek Mental Greening

People often associate becoming depressed during dark winter months with Seasonal Affective Disorder (or, SAD). SAD can actually affect people during any season, including the bright and sunny days during spring and summer months; however, according to a recent Swedish study, regardless of the similar symptoms, SAD doesn’t seem to be the culprit when it comes to the high number of suicides happening in places that experience extended sunlight like Sweden and Greenland.

The researchers speculated that light-generated imbalances in serotonin — the brain chemical linked to mood — may lead to increased impulsiveness that in combination with a lack of sleep drives people to kill themselves.

“We found that suicides were almost exclusively violent and increased during periods of constant day,” Bjorksten said in a statement.

What does this all mean?

Well, nothing for those folks who live in parts of the world that don’t experience extended summer seasons, but for those who do – especially those who already deal with mental health issues – it certainly means taking extra steps to prevent and combat insomnia, at the least.

“During the long periods of constant light, it is crucial to keep some circadian rhythm to get enough sleep and sustain mental health,” Karin Sparring Bjorksten of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and colleagues reported in the BioMed Central journal BMC Psychiatry.

As a raging insomniac who admittedly does very little in terms of trying to get more sleep, I’m not the best person to offer tips for overcoming insomnia and getting better sleep. Below, however, are several good resources – all of which include “greener” alternatives to things like prescription medication.

  • Melatonin: A few months ago, I wrote about melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement that can help you get more sleep. I love it, but it’s certainly not the end-all solution to insomnia; it doesn’t even work for everyone. Still, for brief periods of insomnia, it might just be the answer. (As always, check with your doctor first.)
  • Sleep Disorders and Insomnia: This series by Michael Bengston, M.D. includes information about insomnia and circadian rhythms, as well as tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep: Those who really want to dive into the mechanics of sleep can check out this resource from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • 42 Simple Tips to Help You Get to Sleep: And, those who don’t have time for all that can skip straight to these 42 tips. Of particular interest – sex, massages, and belly rubs (?!).
  • National Sleep Foundation: As if we can really call ourselves searching for information about sleep and sleep disorders without visiting the National Sleep Foundation!

Do you have any foolproof methods that help you fall asleep every time? Share with us!