Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an often under treated cause of winter depression. SAD can also be responsible for feelings of over stimulation or mania in the summer when daylight hours are more abundant.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Fatigue
  • Increased napping
  • Hypersomnia
  • Decreased Interest in social engagements
  • Lack of memory
  • Increased carbohydrate cravings
  • Decreased libido
  • Anxiety

Considerations for SAD sufferers

Light therapy

Light therapy involves the use of a boxed lamp that mimics sunlight. The light of the sun is known to improve the release of mood boosting neurotransmitters and light therapy is used to gain similar benefits. The frequency and length of time spent in front of the lamp depends on your physicians’ guidelines. Light therapy for SAD is different than light therapy used for skin conditions like psoriasis that uses ultraviolet (UV) light. Ultraviolet light is filtered from the light therapy boxes used for SAD as this can damage skin and eyes.

Vitamin D deficiency

Studies have shown those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder often have a low vitamin D level. Supplementing with vitamin D has been correlated with improved mood outcomes. The farther from the equator you live the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency increases, thought to be due to reduced exposure to sunlight. Consider having your vitamin D status tested and supplement appropriately.

Melatonin balance

Melatonin is produced the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. The pineal gland has been referred to as the bodies “third eye” as it sets the rhythm of biological processes in the body based on signals of light and darkness. Light transmits information from the back of the eye to the pineal gland, providing information about day and night by altering the production of the hormone melatonin.

Melatonin is responsible for helping to induce sleep when appropriate and additionally promotes a healthy immune system. Melatonin production can be altered when artificial light is used at night from phones, computers and television screens. The blue light from the screen stimulates the back of the eye like sunlight, causing melatonin production to be postponed.

Alterations in melatonin can cause sleep difficulties, adding to the stress of SAD. Melatonin synthesis also declines with age, making SAD more common in the aging population. Speak with your natural health care provider to determine if melatonin supplementation could be appropriate for your symptoms.

Lifestyle considerations

With the increased stress and business of the holidays, our routine health habits often fall out of favor. From hydrating adequately and avoiding sugar to maintaining a proper exercise regimen and sleep schedule. What our body needs most this time of year is to be treated properly. If I had to pick one lifestyle factor to focus on this holiday season, while they are all important, I would pick sleep. Lack of sleep leads to over eating and sugar cravings which lead to a crash in energy, necessitating caffeine to keep you going, which leads to dehydration. The more tired you are the less likely you are to maintain your exercise regimen. All of which contribute to poor mood. Do you catch my drift!? Make it a goal to maintain adequate sleep, your body, immune system and mood with thank you!

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