You’ve probably got used to the notion of efficiency ratings. Your fridge, your car, your insulation: all these are judged by their efficiency. You may not have realised that your sleep can be too.
The amount of time spent asleep in relation to the amount of time spent in bed is known as sleep efficiency. 80-85% is considered optimal, while below 75% is considered a sign of poor quality sleep.  These busy days, with so many people coping with hectic schedules, constant caffeine intake and very little rest and relaxation, sleep is often illusive. The reasons for tackling this are compelling:
People getting less than 7 hours sleep per night are almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those achieving more than 8 hours per night. 
After a night of only 4 hours sleep, calorie intake can rise by up to 22%.
Patients with resistant hypertension high blood pressure that doesn’t come down even when on as many as three different medications for it have been found to sleep 33.8 minutes less than those with controlled hypertension and 37.2 minutes less than those with normal blood pressure. 
What’s more, when you enter REM or rapid eye movement sleep, when most dreams occur, you are better able to solve a new problem the next day with lateral thinking. So sleeping on it really can work.
Tips on improving sleep efficiency:
Keeping to a consistent sleeping schedule – going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Consider taking a nap during the day – power naps from ten to thirty minutes in the afternoon is best. Any longer that this, will risk falling into a deep sleep.
Avoid coffee and alcohol at night – the stimulating effects of caffeine can disrupt your sleep quality.
Try a mixture of Valerian and Hops to improve the way your body slips into sleep from a wakeful state, as well as increasing the likelihood of your subsequent sleep moving through all the stages including REM sleep, so that you wake refreshed and ready to solve those problems.
Keep the distractions at bay – switch off electronic devices and turn the lights off. Earplugs are also good to use to eliminate background noises.
 BMJ 2008; 337: a1245.
 Cohen S et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2009; Vol. 169 (1): 62-67
 Bronel L et al. Am J Clin Nutr (March 31, 2010) doi10.3945/ajcn.2009.28523
 Friedman O et al. American Journal of Hypertension 2010; 23 2, 174–179
If the short, cold, dark winter days leave you feeling lethargic and energy-depleted, then you may be suffering from the winter blues, or its more severe form, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other symptoms include carbohydrate cravings, irritability, weight gain and the desire to avoid social situations.
The winter blues are triggered by a lack of sunlight – as the number of daylight hours decreases, levels of ‘feel-good’ hormones in our body begin to drop. The symptoms can appear in late autumn and don’t normally lift until the brighter days in early spring. Fortunately there are simple measures that can help to alleviate these troublesome symptoms.
There is certainly a link between low Vitamin D levels and seasonal affective disorder, although it is unclear whether there is a causal connection. A recent review of existing studies concluded that treating Vitamin D deficiency offers a simple way to improve mental health (1). It would seem sensible for those feeling the effects of the winter blues to test their Vitamin D levels, and to address any deficiency. Sunlight and supplementation are likely the fastest way to address deficiencies, although fatty fish, fortified milk and egg yolks will also help to boost levels.
Other studies have shown that omega-3s appear to help maintain healthy levels of the ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Healthy cells membranes, which require good levels of omega-3 fats, are required for the brain to respond to serotonin and dopamine. A recent large double-blind trial of more than 400 adults supports its use in treating depression (2). Based on these results, ensuring adequate omega-3 intake is certainly a sensible approach for those affected by seasonal changes.
Studies investigating the effectiveness of supplements such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP have had mixed results, though some studies have found that supplementation improves symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety and lethargy in those with SAD (3,4).
Dietary changes may also help to relieve symptoms. According to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, a well-timed snack can help to relieve symptoms. Dr Wurtman led a study looking at the SAD-carb connection, concluding that a low-protein snack providing about 30 grams of carbohydrate was enough to provide a serotonin boost. A warm bowl of leek and potato soup in the evening might well provide that much-needed serotonin-boosting carbohydrate.
The most effective natural intervention, however, is probably light therapy. Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD. Specially designed light therapy devices mimic the effects of sunlight to regulate levels of melatonin and serotonin. A recent meta-analysis concluded that light therapy works as an effective treatment for SAD no matter what time of day it is used, so long as it is used at least once daily (5). Dawn simulation is especially useful, and studies have found that this approach is more effective in alleviating SAD symptoms that standard bright light therapy or placebo, alongside additional benefits such as less morning drowsiness (6).
Those looking for a natural way to address the winter blues may benefit from the following approach:
1. Ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 and Vitamin D. You can have your levels checked by a nutritional therapist.
2. Exercise regularly. Try a 30-minute run or brisk walk in the daylight.
3. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, but try a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack in the evening. Good options are sweet potato, brown rice, lentils, rye bread and butternut squash.
4. Try a light therapy lamp or a dawn simulation device, making time to use the device at least once each day for the best results.
1. Anglin RES et al (2013) Samaan Z, Walter SD and McDonald SD. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br-J-Psych 2013, 202:100-107.
2. Lespérance F, Frasure-Smith N, St-André E, et al. (2011) The efficacy of Omega-3 supplementation for major depression: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 72:1054-1062.
3. Ghadirian AM et al (1998) Efficacy of light versus tryptophan therapy in seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 50:23-7.
4. Wheatley D. (1999) Hypericum in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Curr Med Red Opin 15:33-7.
5. Golden RN et al (2005) The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-analysis of the Evidence. Am J Psychiatry 162(4):656-62.
6. Avery DH et al (2001) Dawn Simulation and Bright Light in the Treatment of SAD: A Controlled Study. Biol Psychiatry. 50:205-216.
The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.
Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.
A good night’s sleep Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.
Immune-boosting antioxidants Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).
Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.
If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.
Protective probiotics Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).
Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.
While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.
1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD, director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.
2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.
3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.
4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.
5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.
6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.
BetterYou Total Nutrition is a fantastic and popular product representing a new approach to nutrition for people of all ages. Containing pre sprouted Barley, whole Apple, Flaxseed, Barley Grass, Quinoa, Spirulina, Bilberry Fruit, Carrot, Tumeric and Kelp, BetterYou Total Nutrition is also rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Total Nutrition benefits the body in 3 distinct ways:
1. Fast acting: Strong antioxidant qualities support the body’s cellular uptake of oxygen, giving the metabolism a boost shortly after ingestion.
2. Stable energy release: Pre-Sprouted Barley’s soluble fibre content becomes gelatinous, protecting its nutritional content and sustaining a stable energy and nutrient release. Pre-Sprouted Barley has the potential to generate 400% more energy than conventional Barley and contains a host of nutrients essential for health and well being.
3. Optimal absorption: The ratio of eight essential amino acids within BetterYou Total Nutrition virtually mirrors those essential for the human body to thrive ensuring optimal absorption and efficient energy distribution.
BetterYou’s Recipe Booklet by Dale Pinnock contains 14 delicious recipes to help inspire you to incorporate the superfood in our busy lifestyles. Here are two of the recipes from the Recipe Booklet by Dale Pinnock which comes free with every purchase of Total Nutrition from bodykind (whilst stocks last):
Mean Green Morning Smoothie
Mean Green Morning Smoothie Recipe No 1:
This smoothie takes little digestive effort, supply masses of energy, and provide more nutrition in one glass full, than most people get in a whole day. Despite its peculiar colour, it tastes only of fruit and will put a spring in your step, a glow in your skin, and a smile on your face.
300ml of fresh pressed apple juice 1 good handful of spinach Small handful of kale 1 banana 1 scoop of Total Nutrition Superfood
Add ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth. Take your time as the greens take slightly longer to blend than fruit.
Raw chocolate orange truffle torte recipe No 2:
Who doesn’t love chocolate? This version is packed with good fats, mineral rich chocolate, protein, bioflavonoids and antioxidants – healthy food has never tasted this good.
Raw chocolate orange truffle torte
250g mixed nuts (raw and unsalted) 150g cashew nuts (raw and unsalted) 2 scoops of Total Nutrition Superfood 5-6 pitted dates 3 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder 100g of cacao butter (cold pressed) 2 ripe avocados Zest of whole orange Juice of whole orange 1 tablespoon of honey 20g of coconut oil
In a mixer, blitz the mixed nuts, dates and 1 scoop of Total Nutrition Superfood to a coarse texture. Melt half the cacao butter over hot water and add to mixture. Mix together by hand. Add mixture to 10” tart base press firmly and allow cacao butter to help the base set in the fridge for half an hour. Using a blender, blend avocados, orange zest, orange juice, cashew nuts, honey and second scoop of Total Nutrition Superfood into a smooth silky paste. Melt remaining cacao butter and coconut oil together as before and add to the topping. Mix thoroughly and add to the base. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Content, recipes & images courtesy of the team at BetterYou.
We’ve all heard the expression to “take a deep breath” when we’re stressed. We know that we yawn when we’re tired. And we all understand that we breathe harder when we exert ourselves.
In every case, it’s the body demanding more oxygen. Oxygen fuels our brain and our muscles and actually provides 90% of our nutritional energy.
Here are some interesting facts about oxygen:
Two thirds of the mass of the human body is oxygen
Oxygen concentration in our blood is around 60% to 70% – anything below 52% and life becomes extinct
Before the industrial revolution oxygen levels on the planet were as high as 38% – in some places now they are as low as 10%
Oxygen is colourless, odourless and tasteless. But as a liquid or solid, it’s pale blue
Canned oxygen is becoming increasingly popular – celebrities like Simon Cowell and Lady Gaga are using it, and sports stars are increasingly incorporating oxygen into their training and nutrition plans, both to help peak performance and to aid recovery.
One way to think about oxygen is to imagine it like an energy drink – it really does give you that kind of boost, both mentally and physically. But the big benefit is that unlike most energy drinks, oxygen has no calories and no sugar in it, and you don’t suffer from a post caffeine “low” in the same way as you do with most concoctions.
bodykind has recently teamed up with British company booost Oxygen to offer their product to their customers. You can find booost on the bodykind website.
They recommend a few “shots” if you’re feeling tired or lethargic. For exercise, they suggest up to 5 beforehand, as many as are needed during the workout, and 5 more at the end during your recovery phase.
As well as booost focusing on the sports benefits of using oxygen, there are many other uses for canned oxygen:
There’s plenty of research that headache symptoms (particularly so called “cluster” headaches) can be relieved
Oxygen is well known as being helpful for hangover symptoms
People living in areas of high pollution may certainly benefit from breathing pure, clean oxygen
It’s helpful at altitude, so anybody visiting high places for skiing, snowboarding or hiking could use the product
Canned oxygen is no substitute for medically administered oxygen, but for scuba divers, when there is no alternative, puffing canned oxygen can help until any decompression symptoms are being properly treated
Although it can’t help with weight reduction, using it to keep you motivated whilst exercising could contribute to a weight loss programme
The sun has finally got its hat on across the country this week, and with temperatures reaching well over 20° C, many of us will be rushing outside to make the most of it while it lasts.
Sunshine is a great mood booster as well as being a fantastic energiser, so we feel more inclined to get out and about. Walking the dog doesn’t seem like quite the chore it sometimes might and jobs like sweeping the drive or mowing the lawn somehow have more of an appeal.
The sun is the key place our bodies get our vitamin D stores from, so if we don’t get out in the sunshine very much, we’re likely to be deficient during the winter months and then again into the following summer time period. It’s been drilled into us to wear sun protection throughout the year now and especially in the sunnier months. Whilst it’s crucial to protect our skin from burning to help avoid diseases like Cancer, a little bit of sunshine is actually very beneficial for the skin and the body’s vitamin D reserves.
Vitamin D is beneficial in many ways, such as for the prevention of rickets, supporting eye and bone health, immunity and a healthy pregnancy. Getting outside in the sunshine for a good few minutes without sunscreen on is a great way to supplement your vitamin D stores. However, depending on your skin colour, the time of day and the longitude of your location also depends on the levels of vitamins D your body can make. A great way to supplement your vitamin D stores is by taking a vitamin D supplement, such a BetterYou DLUX which is a sublingual spray and available from 400iu right up to 3000iu in strength.
If you do intend on being out in the sun for a while, especially in the middle of the day, then a natural sunscreen in your daily facial moisturiser and over the rest of your body should be considered. Some popular “mass” sunscreens contain chemical filters that can actually trigger free-radical damage (which is bad for ageing and cancer) as well as synthetic preservatives which can seep through the epidermis of the skin. Natural sunscreens such as those from Green People and lavera work by reflecting UV radiation off the skin like a mirror and contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as vitamins A, C & E and Green Tea and Avocado. They definitely don’t include any nasty chemicals such as parabens, phthalates or artificial ingredients which can be harmful to our health and this is something that is becoming increasingly important to the population.
So, take advantage of the lovely weather this week (it may not last long) and remember the benefits the sunshine can have on our overall health, wellbeing, mind and mood – Enjoy!
Simon Cowell, Katy Perry and Madonna all apparently have injections of B12, the nutrient which helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia that makes people tired and weak.
The total amount of vitamin B12 stored in body is about 5mg in adults with around 50 per cent of this being stored in the liver – for several years if needed.
This sounds positive – and it’s fair to say that nutritional deficiency of this vitamin should be rare. But as approximately 0.5 per cent of this is lost per day by secretions into the gut, and not all these secretions are reabsorbed, deficiency is becoming more predominant than ever.
How fast B12 levels change in the body depends on the balance between how much is obtained from the diet and the amount lost.
However the vitamin is very poorly absorbed and the rate of absorption is decreasing rapidly as our modern Western diet moves from one of fresh meats and seasonal vegetables to more processed foods, resulting in our digestive efficiency reducing.
A healthy digestive system will absorb only one per cent of the B12 from our diet. However our ability to produce the acids necessary for absorption is reducing dramatically and deficiency is now being reported more and more, even amongst the most seemingly healthy. Worryingly deficiency in infants appears to be becoming even more prevalent than amongst adults.
The tissue lining of the mouth offers a strong alternative for effective absorption of our nutrients. Vitamin sprays like the BetterYou B12 Boost supplement spray is a good option.
Research carried out by Cardiff University investigating sublingual vitamin absorption found that nutrients are absorbed faster through the sub-lingual membrane – below the tongue and soft palate, and the buccal membrane – the inner lip and cheek area, than any other tissue area, other than the lungs.
Absorption rates were found to vary depending upon the type of the nutrient. B12 offers potentially better absorption rates than other nutrients, as this vitamin is water soluble, entering the membrane tissue more readily.
Are you the type of person that jumps out of bed every morning with a smile on your face as soon as your alarm goes off, ready and waiting to face the day? Do you remain full of energy and on full pelt for the rest of the day before having a great night’s sleep every night? Or are you more likely to hit snooze on your alarm as much as possible before you absolutely have to get up? Then day-dream about your bed as your energy levels drop through the floor throughout the day?! If you are more likely to be the latter, you are most certainly not alone.
A persistent lack of energy is one of the most common complaints in both men and women across the nation. Daylight, and more importantly sunlight, has a great effect on our overall energy levels. Historically we are used to being outside all day benefiting from the effects of sunlight. Modern living, however, results in the majority of us spending large amounts of time indoors, deprived of sunlight and this causes problems with our body’s natural rhythm and well being.
Officially summer comes to an end this weekend with clocks going back an hour. This signals the start of dull days with very limited and less intense sunlight and even less opportunity to benefit from the sun. This can bring about a reduction in energy levels for much of the population and reduced daylight can, in some cases, cause Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes known as Winter Depression. As a result many people begin to dread the winter months. There are, however, many natural ways to combat low energy and SAD. Balancing your circadian rhythm is a great way to do this.
Below we have drawn up a brief guide on how you can boost your energy levels and prevent the frequent desire for those 3pm snoozes!
Early Morning (approx 6.30am – 9am)
Your Internal Bodyclock is in its “awakening” mode at this stage. Your metabolism is slow and rising. Your body temperature, blood pressure and cortisol levels are all also increasing, signalling to your body to wake up. You may feel ‘groggy’ first thing and crave that morning cup of coffee or a bowl of sweet, sugary breakfast cereal. This may give you a rapid increase in energy, but it will also leave you with an energy slump once the initial effects have worn off. This is where people can fall into the habit of regular caffeine or sugary snacks in an attempt to maintain this feeling.
There are better ways to boost your energy and replenish the low blood glucose levels that have developed during sleep. Try adding a slice of lemon to hot water – this has natural sugars and also helps cleanse the digestive system (having the effect of a bit of a mini detox) ready for the day ahead. Also opt for high fibre breakfasts such as 100% pure rolled porridge oats with a handful of fruit and seeds or a boiled egg with wholemeal toast. These kinds of foods will provide you with a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning, keeping you full for longer and reducing those energy slumps.
Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible in the morning as this will wake your body up for the day. The winter days will prevent many people from being able to do this, therefore you may wish to try using a sunrise alarm clock, like the Lumie Bodyclock Starter in the mornings. This will stimulate your brain into waking gradually, balancing your circadian rhythm and your cortisol levels, which has the added bonus of being able to also support your immune system and stress levels.
Morning until Lunch (approx 9am – 2pm)
As your cortisol levels are still increasing you are more alert and efficient and your mental capability has reached its peak of the day. This means your concentration, memory and focus are all waiting to be utilised. So use this time to get all your lingering tasks done!
You could also try using a SAD light for 30 minutes every day for energy stimulation. The effectiveness of SAD Lights is measured in lux, which is the level of light intensity that you would normally get from the sun. A SAD light with 10,000 lux is recommended for those who want to see the most benefits.
Also avoid drinking coffee at this time as this can cause the swift rises and falls in energy levels. Instead you could try green tea, which is packed with antioxidants and contains much less caffeine per cup. Other teas are also great options such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion. Peppermint, fennel and camomile are also good options.
Females should take extra care too. A lack of energy can be due to low iron levels and coffee has been shown to reduce iron stores in the body. Make sure your levels are topped up by eating foods rich in iron such as meats, some fish and leafy greens such as spinach. Consider taking an iron supplement and remember to take this with vitamin C to help its absorption. B vitamins are also great for energy – You could try adding a multivitamin with extra B Complex, such as Viridian High 5 Multi Vitamin to your daily routine.
Another helpful tip is to try to get outside during your lunch break – the fresh air and daylight can do wonders to prevent that mid-afternoon slump. When choosing your lunch, choose slow-release carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholemeal bread rather than refined carbs such as white bread or crisps. Also ensure you have some protein in your meal too – such as lean chicken, fish, beans or pulses.
Afternoon (approx 2pm – 5pm)
Your cortisol levels start to drop which can often lead to drowsiness or that mid-afternoon slump. It’s best to avoid the temptation for biscuits or chocolate for a sugar boost at this time. If you must have a snack, try a small piece of minimum 70% quality dark chocolate or some dried fruit, nuts or seeds. Make sure you prioritise your tasks for the afternoon so you know exactly what you need to achieve before home time. That way you can go home happy and content with the day. ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ after all. Also taking in deep breaths is great for energy levels and can help reduce stress and aid concentration.
Evening (approx 5pm – 10pm)
As the evening progresses your melatonin levels start to increase (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep) and your digestion slows. Try to avoid snacking in the evening and heavy meals before bed time. This will require a lot of digestion as insulin is less effective at night. Also your digestive system will struggle to cope with excess amounts of food before bed and this can lead to weight gain as well as disruptive sleep – contributing to an imbalanced circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol as much as possible at this time as these can also disrupt your sleep.
A bad night’s sleep can cause low energy the following day and contribute to reduced mental performance. This can cause stress and lead to a spiral of stress and disrupted sleep which is hard to get out of. If you have trouble drifting off at night, try a sunrise alarm clock with a sunset feature like the Lumie Bodyclock Active. The light gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off. If a sunset feature is not for you, then try spraying lavender on your pillow or rubbing some lavender sleep therapy balm on your body to help you switch off.
In addition to these helpful tips, specific nutrients that can support energy levels are:
Magnesium – found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
Vitamin B Complex – found in brown rice and wholemeal bread. If you supplement this, it is best taken as a “complex” of B Vitamins
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) & Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) – Found in green foods such as broccoli, spinach and some red meats
Co-Enzyme Q10 – found in fish, organ meats such as liver and whole grains
Iron – found in a multitude of food sources, such as red meat, beans and pulses, leafy green vegetables, tofu and fortified breads and cereals
Days are getting shorter and there is just over a month before British Summertime ends on 31st October. Some people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, and find the darker months incredibly difficult (please read my previous posts for more information about SAD). Many more individuals exhibit symptoms, in autumn/winter, such as tiredness, lethargy and sleep problems without the depression and anxiety felt by SAD sufferers. There is evidence that some kind of seasonal changes in mood impact much of the general population (1,2)
SADA Seasonal Affective Disorder Association is the UKs only support organisation that is dedicated to SAD. SADA say that(1) “ SAD is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated 7% of the UK population every winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February. It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus [part of the brain] due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, it is a mild but debilitating condition causing discomfort but not severe suffering. We call this subsyndromal SAD or ‘winter blues.’ It is estimated that a further 17% of the UK population have this milder form of condition”.
Even those of us who do not suffer with SAD will often find getting up when it is still dark challenging. Energy levels may be low and springing out of bed with motivation can be hard. In the spring and summer the light increases from early morning and stimulates a gradual wake up call, this is absent in the autumn and winter. The lack of dawn awakening seems to have an impact on our natural, internal body clock – also known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is associated with many biological responses in the body including hormonal release. Disruption to our body clock may play a part in our feelings of morning lethargy in the autumn and winter months.
Previously when writing about SAD I mentioned the sunrise alarm clocks, or bodyclocks, that are available. These sunrise alarm clocks usually consist of a unit with a light that gradually increases in intensity over a 30 minute period until it is at its brightest when an alarm usually sounds. If you find yourself struggling to feel energised in the mornings you might want to think about purchasing one of these bodyclocks. The thinking behind the system is that if we wake up gradually our circadian rhythm, internal body clock, is less disrupted. Use of these dawn simulator in individuals with SAD has been positive and studies are beginning to find that they may also be helpful for individuals who don’t suffer from the condition (3,4).
In addition to light there are many things that can impact how we feel during the darker months. Please read my previous posts on SAD for more information. One important factor is breakfast. Eating a nutrient dense breakfast may well help to prevent feelings of fatigue. It is tempting to reach for caffeine in order to wake up but this may impact blood sugar levels and lead to further feelings of fatigue and irritability. In order to keep blood sugar levels balanced a breakfast that is low in sugar and low in processed food is preferable. Choosing food with a low glycaemic index may be helpful and including a source of protein (e.g. eggs, beans, nuts/seeds) is important e.g. berries with yoghurt, sprinkled with nuts/seeds or poached eggs on wholegrain toast are two breakfast ideas. Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed wholegrain carbohydrates, unprocessed meats/fish (especially oily fish), beans, eggs, nuts/seeds and other unrefined foods will help to fuel the body through the day and prevent feelings of lethargy and fatigue. Specific vitamins, minerals and essential fats may also be helpful, especially to those individuals suffering with SAD, please read my previous posts for more information.
1.Rosen LN & Rosenthal NE. 1991. Seasonal variations in mood and behavior in the general population: a factor-analytic approach. Psychiatry Res. 38(3):271-83.
2.Kasper S et al. 1989. Epidemiological findings of seasonal changes in mood and behavior. A telephone survey of Montgomery County, Maryland. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 46(9):823-33
3.Leppamaki S et al. 2003. Effect of simulated dawn on quality of sleep, a community based trial. BMC Psychiatry. 3:14
4.Thorn L et al. 2004. The effect of dawn simulation on the cortisol response to awakening in healthy participants. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 29:925-930