The Winter Solstice and Lack of Sunlight
Today is the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year.
The word itself roughly translates to "Sun stands still" from the original Latin. Ancient cultures like the Germanic Pagans and the Vikings of Scandinavia celebrated the Winter Solstice, believing it to be a time of death and rebirth. However, today we view it as the astronomical phenomenon behind our seasons and we mourn the lack of sunlight it brings us.
Why does the solstice happen?
Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, we spend half the year with the North Pole pointed towards the Sun and the other half with the South Pole pointed towards it. This tilt is what gives us seasons.
In the Northern Hemisphere, our Winter Solstice (when we're in "peak" darkness) occurs falls on December 21st, 22nd or 23rd. The solstice itself is actually a moment, when the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun.
The further North you are from the equator, the less sunlight you'll experience today. Here in the UK we’ll get less than 8 hours of sunlight today, so better get out in the chilly, December weather to experience a little sunlight today.
Why is the lack of sunlight an issue?
Beyond the practical side-effects of living in darkness, the lack of sunlight can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Vitamin D deficiency
Our bodies use the UV rays from sunlight to create Vitamin D, which is needed to help the body absorb calcium from our food. Without Vitamin D our bones can soften and weaken, eventually leading to more serious problems.
In the Northern Hemisphere, it's recommended that we supplement our VItamin D intake in the winter months. For those in the UK, the government's official advice is for all people over the age of one to supplement 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.
This is why we felt it so important to launch our TEA+ Vitamin D this Autumn, in time for these darker months, to create a tasty way to meet those requirements.
Sunlight helps regulate your serotonin and melatonin metabolism, the hormones that affect your mood and sleep. So when there's a lack of sunlight, you can experience fatigue, disrupted sleeping patterns, mood swings and general low mood.
Lack of sunlight correlates to colder weather as the sun is no longer around to heat us up. Why does the cold matter? If you've ever experience a sudden increase in headaches during the colder weather, you're not alone. There's still more research to be done, but reports currently suggest that migraine cases seem to increase during winter. It appears that the drop in temperature can result in tension headaches. These are the most common type of headache, which many say feel like a tight band constricting around the forehead.
What Can You Do To Minimise the impact?
- Take advantage of the longest night and get a good, long sleep.
- Try practising some self-care (deep breathing, meditation, leisurely walks, or yoga) to lift your mood
- Take hot baths to warm you up and relax your body
- Take a Vitamin D supplement
- Invest in the therapy light to help with SAD
You might also be interested in...
Sticking To Your Sleeping Patterns At Christmas
Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin