Now that we are approaching the winter months, the days begin to shorten and therefore sunlight does too. This can be a tough time for people generally but even more so for those who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition is a form of depression that comes and goes in seasonal patterns. The disorder is also known as ‘winter depression’ due to the fact that the symptoms are more apparent during winter months.
The symptoms usually have a gradual affect and start in autumn as the days begin to get shorter. Typically SAD often goes away in the spring and summer but can have a tendency to return each autumn and winter in a repetitive fashion. The condition is usually most severe during December, January and February and the most common symptoms of SAD are listed below:
- Loss of interest in activities that you once were interested in
- Low energy and drowsiness
- Sleeping more and craving sleep
- Easting more and craving carbohydrates leading to an increase in weight
- High levels of energy during spring and summer
- Feelings of despair, worthlessness and guilt
It is unknown as to exactly what causes SAD but there are common theories. The most prominent of these is reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter seasons. This in turn means that a part of the brain is working disproportionally resulting in a chemical imbalance which affects certain hormones.
- It is thought that people with SAD have enhanced levels of melatonin which makes you feel more sleepy than usual. This also explains the lethargic feel that many experience.
- Serotonin is a hormone which affects your sleep appetite and mood. A lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels which are commonly found in SAD sufferers. Lower serotonin levels are linked with feelings of depression.
- Circadian Rhythm is the body’s internal clock. Your body uses sunlight to perform various functions, such as when you wake up. Therefore when the darker months hit, your body can’t cope with the disruptive nature of winter. This can in turn lead to symptoms of SAD.
There are various treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder which include both medication and natural remedies. The most obvious of these is to have a natural light remedy which can come in the form of SAD lights.
These lights set out to replicate natural light produced by the sun. White and blue lights are thought to be the newest LED concept. Light boxes have proven to work on SAD sufferers and are recommended by the charity SAD.ORG.