Expats looking to relocate to Northern Europe or the North Atlantic, namely countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, you will likely have some awareness of the fact that the winter months are longer and colder when compared to the UK winter season.
You will also be aware that a longer winter will mean the need to wrap up warmer and that perhaps you may need to invest in some snow boots. However, often it can come as a surprise that these winters bring a plethora of potential health risks to residents, due to the lack of sun exposure.
If you’ve ever experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) like symptoms during a typical British winter, it can be wise to take extra precautions to best manage your health and wellbeing during this time. And if you haven’t, it’s still possible that you may be affected with similar symptoms during exposure to unusually long period of darkness.
Furthermore, the effects of no sunlight for prolonged periods can also cause physical ailments and health concerns, so it’s well worth increasing your awareness so you’re able to take as much preventative action as possible.
Impacts of Winter Darkness
Lengthy periods without access to sunlight can have a profound effect on both our mental and physical wellbeing. In Nordic Countries, the ‘dark season’ can last from October through to late March.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Sunlight is an essential need for humans as we use the UV rays within it to produce vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is vital for our bones and immune systems to function effectively and is thought to be responsible for regulating some 1,000 genes in our bodies.
Whilst we can get some of our vitamin D intake from the food we eat, it mostly comes from our everyday exposure to sunlight and why we can suffer as a result of limited access to it.
Some of the problems you may experience as a direct result of a Vitamin D deficiency include:
- Bone and skeletal deformities
- Dental problems
- Cutaneous Tuberculosis
Similarly, to the essential production of Vitamin D, a lack of sunlight can also cause our bodies to produce too much melatonin – a hormone responsible for helping us relax and fall asleep. Thereby making you feel more tired, lethargic and this has the potential to lead to depression like symptoms.
It is also possible to suffer symptoms of SAD which include, low mood, lack of interest in everyday activities, irritability, feelings of worthlessness and despair, food craving and weight gain.
Preventative Action for Expats
Thankfully, expats and residents alike have found there to be some simple actions which can be taken to evade the negative effects of Nordic darkness.
Vitamin D Levels
Ensuring your body gets enough Vitamin D is essential to combating the potential risks of a Vitamin D deficiency.
You can do this by taking Vitamin D supplements and by eating plenty of food rich such as oily fish, dairy products and eggs, which are good sources of Vitamin D.
Sun lamps are widely available so do be sure to use these to get the ‘imitation’ effects of sunlight, tricking your mind and body into thinking this is real sunshine.
To counteract any symptoms of depression, take every opportunity to undertake physical exercise and activity so you benefit from this mood boosting solution.