It's a SAD time of yearFrom sunrise to sunset, Minnesotans will have less than 10 hours to catch some sunlight in January. Even though daylight hours are steadily increasing, winter’s wrath more than likely is enduring among those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
By: Crystal Hoepner, Public Health Educator, Alexandria Echo Press
From sunrise to sunset, Minnesotans will have less than 10 hours to catch some sunlight in January.
Even though daylight hours are steadily increasing, winter’s wrath more than likely is enduring among those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
First diagnosed in 1984, SAD is a form of depression triggered by the onset of fall and winter’s shortened days and affects a person during the same season each year.
Sufferers develop depressive symptoms, such as oversleeping, overeating, social withdrawal and a decline in cognitive ability.
Melatonin is a hormone that our brains produce during the hours of darkness. It is involved with regulation of sleep, body temperature and release of hormones.
People with SAD produce too much melatonin. This disrupts our internal body clock leading to depressive symptoms.
If you have had episodes of depression that clearly have an onset in fall or winter followed by remission of symptoms in the spring or summer, you may have SAD.
Symptoms of winter-onset SAD include:
--Feeling sad, moody, anxious or grumpy.
--Loss of energy.
--Oversleeping (difficulty getting up in morning).
--Loss of interest in usual activities.
--Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates such as pastas, rice, bread and cereal.
--Difficulty concentrating and processing information.
Anyone can get SAD, but it is more common in people who live in areas where winter days are short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons.
Your first line of defense is to get out and move. Physical activity can make a big impact on SAD symptoms. By getting outside in natural sunlight and jogging, cross country skiing or even walking the dog in the winter you can have a major chance of feeling better.
Also, being active during the daytime, especially first thing in the morning, may help you have more energy and feel less depressed.
Speak with your health care provider if you think you may have SAD. Treatment is available. Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective.
Light therapy (phototherapy) can also be used to treat SAD. Light-therapy boxes emit artificial light to help compensate for a lack of sunlight. Small, portable boxes are often equipped with LED lights, while larger boxes are often outfitted with florescent lights.
Whichever type, you’ll simply sit in front of it for 30 to 45 minutes per day. You can purchase a phototherapy light without a prescription, but speak with your provider first. Some insurance companies may cover some of the cost.
Treat SAD, so you can enjoy this beautiful time of year!