We’ve all heard of the winter blues. Did you know that for some people it’s more than just being upset about the cold? Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. And it is sad.
Because the days are shorter and the nights are longer during winter—thanks to the winter solstice, people experience less daylight time, which means less serotonin. According to mayoclinic.com, reduced exposure to sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, which may trigger depression.
The reduced light exposure may also mess with your circadian rhythm, making it harder to stick to a normal sleep schedule and which may also lead to depression. Along with circadian rhythm, the winter season can lead to changes in your melatonin levels, which play a role in your sleep patterns and mood.
According to mayoclinic.com, the following are signs and symptoms of SAD:
• Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
• Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
• Having low energy
• Having problems with sleeping
• Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
• Feeling sluggish or agitated
• Having difficulty concentrating
• Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
• Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Those make for a pretty rough few months, especially when you live somewhere that also experiences cold—and usually snowy—weather in the winter.
So how do you combat SAD? One of the easiest ways is to use a light therapy lamp. You can purchase one starting at about $40. The purpose of a light therapy lamp is to help you get exposure to light that you’re missing this time of year because of the shortened days—or if you’re like me, because you work in an office during most daylight hours.
After reading many articles and reviews online, I was convinced that these lamps really do help. Mayoclinic.com states that “light therapy is one of the first line treatments for fall-onset SAD. It generally starts working in a few days to a few weeks and causes few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most people in relieving SAD symptoms.”
To use a light therapy lamp, you sit a few feet from the lamp so that you’re exposed to bright light within the first hour of waking up each day. It’s supposed to mimic natural outdoor light.
Before you buy a light for yourself, talk to your doctor about the best one for you. You want to make sure you get one that’s safe and effective. And if you do purchase one, make sure to follow the directions and use it properly.