Difficult to get up, tiredness or a depressed feeling ... These are common winter complaints at the office hours of Edwin de Vaal (47), doctor in Nijmegen. This week he answers the question: is there anything to do about the winter blues?
Does that really exist, the winter blues?
"Yes. Some people really suffer from tiredness, listlessness, gloom and difficulty in getting up in the winter. That phenomenon is called winter blues."
What causes those complaints?
"The symptoms are caused by a lack of daylight during the winter months. The days are shorter, it is late light and it gets dark early."
"Through all kinds of hormonal processes, daylight ensures that we are fit, cheerful and alert and that we start the day with energy in the morning."
So in the winter we get too little light 'inside'?
"Correct. Daylight is registered through the retina in the eyes. The retina sends all sorts of other signals to the brain in addition to what you see and thus influences the production of various substances. The lucky hormones dopamine and serotonin for example."
"In winter the retina registers less daylight." Edwin de Vaal, doctor
"In winter that signal gets weaker because the retina registers less daylight. That makes sense, in the winter, nature is also calmer and we are a part of it. This can cause fatigue and somberness for some people. "
Is there anything to do about those winter blues?
"Try to grab as much daylight as possible. Go outside as soon as the sun is at its highest point and take another detour later in the day. Move your workplace to a place where a lot of daylight enters."
Does it necessarily have to be daylight?
"Yes, the light of an ordinary lamp does not contain the right types of light frequencies and therefore does not have the positive effect on your brain of daylight. And tanning lamps mainly contain UV, which is not only very harmful to your skin but also to your eyes "
"Go outside as much as possible, even on a cloudy winter day." Edwin de Vaal, doctor
"There are special daylight lamps and light therapy devices that provide the right kind of light and mimic the positive effects of natural daylight."
"But in the first place, just go outside a lot. You always take more 'good' light with it than inside. Even on a cloudy winter day. And exercise! Exercise has a positive effect on your mood and mental health."
Do you have any more tips?
"Our bodies deal with the shorter daylight period in the same way as in the time of our ancestors who lived in caves. At that time it was a sign for people to shift to a lower gear and do a little less. It was a sign that it was winter. And that meant that less food was available and that energy was needed. "
See also: Walks that are extra beautiful in the winter
"These days we live at the same pace in the winter as in the summer. We have to do everything. If you suffer from the winter blues, it's not a bad idea to switch back a gear. In the winter, we just have a little less energy than in the summer."
Every week De Vaal, general practitioner in Nijmegen, answers a frequently asked or striking question from his practice at NU.nl.