How to Get Out of Bed When You Have SAD

6 min read

Last Modified 5 May 2023 First Added 18 October 2020

By Leigh Horan

What is seasonal affective disorder?

SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year. The most common type is winter depression when the weather is cold and there are less hours of daylight.

Reduced amounts of sunlight, vitamin D, warmth and the general drabness of winter can leave you feeling drained and downtrodden. If these feelings occur at the same point every year and subside as spring and summer approach, then it’s very likely that you suffer from SAD.

It’s also possible to have Seasonal Affective Disorder in the summer too. With the sun, BBQs and holidays, some people can start to feel overwhelmed. Studies by experts aren’t sure exactly why summer depression is a thing but they think it may have something to do with the hot temperature. There’s more science around why SAD most often occurs in winter; check out video with Dr Pixie Mckenna or read on.


Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms to look out for....

This depression can make it difficult to do anything, even something seemingly simple such as getting out of bed. Having SAD is more than being sad all the time.

Summer and winter depression has physical side effects, such as severe exhaustion, meaning you’re physically unable to summon the energy to pull yourself up and out of bed.

Sometimes it can feel as if your muscles can’t switch on and particular physical ailments, such as joint and muscle fatigue, headaches, nausea and indigestion can occur.

These symptoms can make the way you’re feeling emotionally worse, as you struggle to keep up with your everyday routine.

According to the NHS, here are the main symptoms of winter SAD to look out for…

  • Low mood
  • No pleasure or interest in everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Feeling sleepy during the day
  • Sleeping for longer than you normally would
  • Craving carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Low sex drive

And signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder in summer include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping

Note: If you’ve got the winter blues and think you may have seasonal depression – make sure you speak to your doctor. They’ll be able to find the right support and care you need.

What causes SAD?

There’s no definitive answer to the cause of seasonal depression. Let’s look at what science says.
One research study found that people who suffer from SAD may struggle with a circadian misalignment that disrupts normal melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that causes sleepiness in response to darkness.
Another study showed that Seasonal Affective Disorder creates difficulty regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is thought to be responsible for mood regulation.
Research has found that if we have trouble regulating serotonin and produce too much melatonin, it can disrupt our circadian rhythms (our 24-hour internal body clock).
Woman in bed snoozing Woman in bed snoozing

How to manage SAD

Small changes can make a big difference. Next, we share a few tips and tricks to help you manage seasonal depression. Whilst they will not cure it, they’ll make your days more manageable.

1. Make a checklist

When you have seasonal depression, even the little things can feel like major obstacles. Summoning the energy to go to work, or even just have a shower, can seem like an impossible demand.

However, we all have things we need to do that can’t be organised from under the duvet. So to help you get up and start your day, make a checklist of your tasks for the day (including even the small things, like getting out of bed).

Image of to do list for someone with SAD

Noting your ability to get out of bed as an achievement is important, as is giving yourself a pat on the back for everything you manage to do after this point.

Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t do x, y and z. Instead, appreciate all the things you did do. Write a checklist of all the things you usually do before you leave the house. This can include getting out of bed, showering, eating, and brushing your teeth.

Once you have a visual representation of all the things you did manage to do, you’ll feel a lot better about your achievements throughout the day.


2. Get some fresh air

Even though you have winter blues, make going outside a habit. As psychologist Robert Wicks says, you should think, ‘Yes, I am depressed but I am going to be depressed outside. Activity and depression don’t like to live together.’ Try to stop thinking about getting up, and just do it instead. We understand it’s easier said than done, but you’ll get there.

3. Bribe yourself

It’s hard to find anything that can make you feel happy when you have depression. Many of your favourite things might not cheer you up anymore.

However, telling yourself you’ll do something that normally makes you smile, such as listening to music, eating a certain lunch, or giving for a treat is a small step you can take to start to feel yourself again.

4. Create a routine and stick to it

Everyone dislikes the fact that they have to work. However, having a structure to our day is exactly what can stop us from floundering for a purpose in our lives. And it means we appreciate the time spent outside of work all the more.

Having a structure to your week is the first step towards recovery, whether it’s in the form of a job, regular volunteering or a particular class. Not only does it get you out of bed but it means you interact with others and have some respite from being inside your own head.

5. Break it down

Splitting your day into more manageable chunks is also a good way to help minimise any panic about doing things. If you tell yourself to only handle the next 15 minutes, you may feel that you worry less about what you will be doing for the entire day.

Michelle, from Project Beyond Blue, ‘break[s] things down into tiny, tiny steps’, saying things like ‘I don’t have to go to work, I just need to get on the train.’ She says that she then feels as if she can back out at any moment if things were to become too much.

Man sitting outside on bench in snow

Make sure you visit your doctor

Always consult a medical professional if you’re worried about SAD. If winter, or summer approaches and your mood changes, book an appointment with your GP. Possible treatments for seasonal depression include lifestyle changes, light therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), counselling and antidepressant medicine. Your doctor will decide what’s best for you.

And finally, remember – everything is going to be okay.

About the author

More from the Sleep Matters Club