How to Get Out of a Cold Weather Slump

Jen wants to know how to get out of a cold weather slump. She believes that colder temperatures put her in a slump where all she wants to do is curl up on the couch under a warm blanket. She wants to know ways to feel better.

Cara shares that she too experiences a winter slump and shares that she gets as much light as possible during the day, and plays sounds of birds chirping and other sounds of spring. This seems to help her out of her winter slump.

Jen associates the slump with cold temperatures and Cara associates the slump with light and springtime. Both are aware that they seem to hibernate in the winter. People do sleep and eat more in the winter, and are less interested in usual activities. They are not necessarily sad, but slowed and disinterested. Some people are more aware of and sensitive to these changes than others.

The changes in appetite, energy, sleep and interest are not related to temperature changes in the winter, though. They are related to changes in light. There are fewer daylight hours in the winter. A person who is sensitive to changes in light can experience a winter slump even in southern areas where there is ample light. A person who is not so sensitive to light changes will not experience a winter slump even in northern areas where there is little sunlight in the winter.

People with depression and bipolar disorders are often very sensitive to changes in light. People who have depression and bipolar disorders may have a mood episode any time of year, but are more likely to have a depressive episode during the winter. A person with bipolar disorder is most likely to have a manic or mixed episode in the spring or summer – when we have more daylight hours. A person who only experiences depression and only in the winter might have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is rare though, and affects only 1-2% of the population. The “winter blues” are much more common. These are depression like symptoms that are not full blown clinical depressions. They occur in 1% of the population in tropical climates and 10% of the population in northern climates.

Light is related to our circadian rhythm; our sleep-wake cycle. In the spring and summer, when light increases and sleep decreases, we experience an antidepressant effect. A person with bipolar disorder can experience mania. In the winter, when light decreases and sleep increases, we experience depression. Changes in light change our circadian rhythm. Most of us are not affected or aware of the affects. Others are very dramatically affected.

Understanding what causes a winter slump or “winter blues” helps us understand what we can do to feel better when we notice the symptoms and behaviors. In the winter, increase exposure to light by going outside, without sunglasses, for an hour at noon and sleep with all the blinds up. In the summer, reduce exposure to sunlight, wear sunglasses and use dark window shades. Light box treatment is used to treat SAD and can also be use for “winter blues.”

A light box, used every morning for 30 minutes can produce an antidepressant effect within 1-2 weeks; faster than medication that can take 4-6 weeks. Adjustments can be made, as needed, in how often and how long the sessions last. Treatments can begin in October when natural daylight decreases and stop in March when daylight increases.

As mentioned, increased light has an antidepressant effect and can trigger a manic episode. A person with bipolar disorder is at increased risk of suicide during a mixed depressed and manic state, which is most likely to occur in April, when sunlight increases. Use of a light box would not be indicated for a person with bipolar disorder.


Medscape Psychiatry; "The Truth About Seasonal Affective Disorder"; Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH; Posted: 02/03/2011

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Comments 22 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello kimh039. Interesting hub. I think the warm blanket and just laying on the couch is the best solution. The writng from those in the north and colder eastern states gets darker once the weather turns cold.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Hi mckbirdbks:) Good observation! I bet it does! I hadn't noticed, but it makes sense. I wonder if it effects the number of hubs published. You'd think in the winter we'd have more time indoors and would write more, but I know I'm writing less. The blanket and couch are sounding good to me right now...with some tea. Thanks or reading and commenting. I bet it was the sound of birds chirping and other spring sounds that lured you in:)

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jenubouka 5 years ago

Very cool info Kim,

When I managed a salon we had tanning beds and living in Seattle there were many people that used the beds as "light therapy".

For myself I live where it is sunny 300+ days a year, and living in Seattle for so long, I get tired of the sunshine, I know I am weird.

Voted up, Thanks for the link!

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Yes. That seems very strange to me:) Seriously, I wondered if people get tired of sunshine. It seems like it could get over stimulating. There is something nice and cozy about curling up on the sofa in a warm blanket. Thanks for the comment jenubouka.... Still, I would like to get tired of sunshine....

alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Fortunately do not feel the same way. I love cold weather. It's hot weather that I don't like.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Hi Kim. Interesting hub.I never made these associations.I wonder if that theory applies to people who work nights.

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Hi Kim...

From the moment we do "the switch" time thing and it starts getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon...I begin to brood. The fact that is freezing doesn't help because I think about how expensive it is to keep the place warm...and I start to brood. A lot of brooding going on.

The light box is a notion that I can see my self abusing. Although not bipolar (I don't think) ...I do have my demons. We have a long high desert winter that has me compiling 'kill' lists by mid-March.

Great hub and happy Holidays to you!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@alekhouse - I love hot weather - and all the sunlight that goes with it and I do extremely cold temps well too - as long as I have lots of layers on. I think I might prefer summer weather because summer is shorter than winter, but I do wonder if I would get tired of it like jenubouka was saying. I don't think I would, but maybe. Thanks for commenting:) Happy Holidays.

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kimh039 5 years ago Author

@dahoglund - I did a quick search and came up with this:

There actually is a condition called "shift work sleep disorder" (SWSD)! There was a study done to see if Provigil works to treat it. The research describes SWSD as "a circadian rhythm sleep disorder associated with excessive sleepiness or insomnia as a result of working at night and sleeping during the day." It is estimated that the disorder could affect as many as 25% of individuals working in rotating shifts. The jury is still out on Provigil officially, but it is believed to be effective - but has a high potential for abuse because it's a stimulant. It's expensive too and caffeine may be just as effective, but cheaper. It didn't exactly say if it's related to light, but it is related to circadian rhythm which is, so....maybe another hub! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wondering out loud:) I love wondering out loud. Happy Holidays, daholglund.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@Thought Sandwiches....good point that increased expense of heating costs might lead to some brooding! Thomas, I'm inclined to agree that the light box might not agree with you. That list sounds pretty scary. What does a person have to do to get on it? Just checking. Thanks so much for your comments and the holiday wishes. Happy Holidays to you too:)

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

Very interesting.. Like the birds I have went south for the winter.. I hate cold weather.. right now I am in 80 degree weather.. I think the older I get the more i dislike the cold. and I agree with the electric blanket.. which I use in the winter months.. thanks for writing this.. I voted up

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jenubouka 5 years ago

Kim you nailed it. There is a lot of pressure when the sun is shining, "I should be outside working on the house", or "I should really appreciate this wonderful weather and go for a walk". When you have a little guy and the sun is shining, you can forget about any housework or writing.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@Deborah Brooks - 80 degrees and lots of sunshine sounds great to me. You seem to have a very strong preference for it...and are fortunate that you are able to migrate. I wonder how many of us stay in climates that are strongly unpleasant and uncomfortable, and whether moving would improve a person's well being - not as a way of escaping problems or seeking what is known as a "geographical change" but because of a very strong climate preference. Interesting indeed. Thanks Deborah Brooks and Happy Holidays:)

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@jenubouka - I can definitely see that. Thanks:)

cherylone profile image

cherylone 5 years ago from Connecticut

Very interesting, I know a bipolar person and intend to pass this on, thanks for sharing this one

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Great cherylone. I hope it is helpful to your friend. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment:)

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Very interesting, well researched hub. I didn't realize that people in southern climates could also be affected by the decreased number of daylight hours in winter.

I like the change of seasons in Delaware because winters (except for the past 2) are relatively mild and it is usually possible to continue daily walks several times a week.

When I lived in New York we had lots of snowstorms and bitter temps that made it hard to spend much time outdoors and I did find that depressing.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Hi Gail. I didn't know you lived in New York! We lived in Alaska for 3 years. We did learn to enjoy the indoors and staying home while we were there, but our children were both born there, so......We went to visit our friends in Hawaii while we lived in AK, and I did notice that I am more inhibited in cold climates and less inhibited in the sunny, warm climate of Hawaii. As I shed layers of clothing, I shed inhibitions.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

FloBe profile image

FloBe 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I live on the West Canadian Coast where we get grey skies and quite a bit of rain in the winter. While we don't have such cold temperatures, the gloomy days do wear me down and I am also tempted to stay cozy under the covers. I was deluded into thinking that I'd be able to do most of my writing during this season but my mind seems to become sluggish as well! I am still trying to figure out just the right solution for myself and I appreciate your insight into this dilemma.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Your winters are loooooooong too, FloBe. I hope you do find solutions that work for you, and am glad you found the information helpful. I wonder if rain and/or barometric pressure contributes as well - a double whammy.

billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

This hub is very interesting - lots of good information for those that suffer from weather-related mood-swings - I do agree with FloBe - the combination of grey skies and rain do see a lot of depressed individuals - light seems to be what humans thrive on - I prefer even bitterly cold days to those grey skies - B.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 4 years ago Author

well thanks, billips. I'm inclined to agree; better colder and sunny than warmer and drab. We are having spring weather here today and I'm loving it. Thanks for flying in. You're the second bird to comment about the cold weather slump:)

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