Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Deal with It
From September all the way through too late February, do you suffer with the following symptoms?
- Low mood
- Lack of energy
- Loss of interest & pleasure in everyday activities
- Craving carbohydrates and then gaining weight
- Do you feel lethargic and sleepy during the day?
- Perhaps you even suffer with feelings of despair, guilt or worthlessness?
Typically, these symptoms are regarded as being an unavoidable problem caused by the British winter, and, as a stoic sometimes downbeat nation, we’re expected to put up with not feeling at our best, batten down the hatches, stay indoors and hope things will be better when things warm up in the spring! However, the feelings you are struggling with may actually have a root cause based upon the lack of sunlight you experience during our winter months
This long list of symptoms indicates, not just a general malaise, but a type of depression that comes and goes with a seasonal pattern, known as ‘winter depression’ or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
And so, by staying indoors you are exacerbating the symptoms - during the winter months, in northern hemisphere countries, the amount of sunlight exposure we enjoy is very limited – especially if we’re office based and traveling to and from work in the dark. The lack of sunlight may prevent the hypothalamus, a part of your brain, working effectively, which can effect production of the hormone Melatonin (this makes you feel sleepy – those of us with SAD produce more), a hormone called Serotonin ( this affects your mood, appetite, and sleep, if this is out of balance you’ll feel depressed) and your natural body clock (circadian rhythm). Your body uses sunlight to time important functions, like waking or getting off to sleep.
SAD may run in your genes, do other members of your family suffer with similar symptoms?
How can you improve the way you feel in the depths of British wintertime?
Your GP can help, talk her though your symptoms and she’ll suggest a number of alternatives:
- Antidepressant medication
- Talking therapies such as CBT or counselling
- Lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible. A walk every lunchtime to try and catch as many rays as possible – no matter how cold it is!
- Light therapy – simulated sunlight in your own home
At Tower Health we are keen on natural therapies and drug-free alternatives, where possible. And, happily, when it comes to SAD, we think we’ve discovered an exciting new approach to light therapy, that is easy to use, saves time – the current old-fashioned lamps your GP will know about, require a 30-minute session, sitting in front of the lamp every day, and is a proven, medical device but completely natural.
Luminette – Light Therapy is light therapy ‘on the go’. Similar to a visor, the device is worn above your eyes and shines simulated sunlight, whilst you walk, read or watch tv. Lightweight and easy to use, Luminette treats your SAD symptoms whilst you get on with your normal stuff.
It’s not just those with SAD that can benefit, if you work shift patterns that disrupt your sleep, travel through time zones regularly and have problems with jet lag, or have disrupted sleep patterns due to staying up late or insomnia, your mood can be altered because of a misfiring hypothalamus.