Every year as the summer starts to disappear and the dull days and dark evenings start, people, suffer from depression, weight gain, lethargy and the desire for more sleep. They often also get a craving for more than normal carbohydrates such as cakes and cookies. When spring comes some of the symptoms start to wain, and by the time summer has arrived they are generally much happier. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.
Scientists have been studying this problem since the 1980s, and they have found that about 5% of people suffer so badly that it affects their work, their activities and their life generally.
Dealing With SAD
In spite of all the research, scientists still do not know why some people suffer from SAD and some don’t. The most usual theory is that light affects the hormone melatonin, which peaks in the brain at night. This hormone regulates your body clock, and a lack of sunlight sends it into overdrive. Another theory is that the lack of light upsets the balance of serotonin, which is a mood-regulating chemical in the brain.
There are lamps that are specially designed to replicate the light from the sun and some users find these beneficial. A study in Canada showed that between 30 minutes and 2 hours in front of a SAD light was as good as taking an anti-depressant tablet such as Prozac.
If you are one of the unlucky 5% that are very badly affected this might not be enough. Then a better option could be something like TMS therapy, anti-depressants or seeing a therapist, all of which can help you through the worst times.
If your mental health symptoms are not too severe there are some things that can help prevent the onset of SAD. If you have suffered from it in years gone by, as fall starts, set your bedroom light on a timer so that it comes on about an hour before you wake.
Try to work by a window to make the most of as much natural daylight as you can. Even though the glass will diminish the effects of the suns rays, you are still likely to benefit from a window seat.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, go for a walk while it is still daylight. Even if the sky is cloudy, you will still feel the benefit of a daily 30-minute walk, both physically and mentally.
Remember that winter is not a time for you to try and deal with stressful situations and avoid them as much as you can. Try not to work too long hours either, as otherwise you will be going to and coming home from work in the dark.
If you are able to take a short break in a sunnier climate that can be a great help. Just a long weekend in the sun can make a big difference to SAD sufferers.
SAD is something that can suddenly hit you at any age. You do not have to have been a lifelong sufferer to feel its effects, but once you get it one year, it is likely to happen again. Taking steps to help prevent will make it easier for you to get through each winter without spending months feeling low.
This post is partnered and collaborative content.