As winter approaches and the days get shorter, your mood may get darker too. Sunlight deprivation can make people feel lethargic, gloomy, and irritable, and for some it can lead to the condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. SAD is a mood disorder that affects an individual the same time each year, usually starting when the weather becomes colder in September or October, and ends in April or May when the weather becomes warmer. People with SAD feel depressed during the shorter days of winter, and more cheerful and energetic during the brightness of spring and summer. The body doesn’t just crave any light; rather, different colors of light seem to affect the body in different ways. Light from the green part of the spectrum is important to the eye’s visual system, for instance, while blue light seems to primarily affect the mind, including mood. In fact, the impact of blue light on mood may be even greater than previously thought. According to a new study blue light may play a key role in the brain’s ability to process emotions. Though preliminary, the results suggest that spending more time under blue-enriched light, rather than the white light most bulbs emit, could help stave off bouts of the blues and make all of us feel a bit brighter during the winter months.
10 Things You May Not Have Known About SAD
Did you know that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women? It’s true. If you are a female between 15 and 55, you are more likely to develop SAD.
Even though the harsh chill in the air might bring you down, SAD is believed to relate more to daylight, not the temperature. Some experts believe that a lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of a body chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is what helps regulate sleep and can cause symptoms of depression.
SAD can be treated. If your symptoms are mild and do not interfere with your daily life, light therapy may help you beat SAD. Using light therapy has shown highly effective. Studies prove that between 50% and 80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms. However, light therapy must be used for a certain amount of time daily and continue throughout the dark, winter months.
Therapy Side Effects
Some say that light therapy has no side effects, but others disagree. It depends on the person. Some people experience mild side effects, such as headaches, eyestrain, or nausea. However, these light therapy users say that the side effects are temporary and subside with time or reduced light exposure. Most scientists agree that there are no long-term side effects, but remember to consult your physician before any treatment decisions are made.
Light Box Side
When purchasing a light box, buy a larger one so that you will receive enough light to be beneficial.The best time for light therapy is in the early morning. (If used late at night, it could cause insomnia.) So, even if it means waking up earlier, set aside some morning time to relax and use your light box.
Many people are not aware of this, but you must have your eyes open and face the light during therapy. Do not stare at the light. Simply face the light, eyes open.
It takes more than just one winter depression to be diagnosed with SAD. The symptoms and remission of the systems must have occurred during the last two consecutive years. The seasonal depressive episodes must outnumber the non-seasonal depressive episodes in one’s lifetime.
SAD can be treated with certain medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain. Such medications include antidepressants, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
There is actually a device that conducts light therapy and allows you to walk around while treated. The device is called a light visor. Just wear the light visor around your head and complete your daily chores and rituals.
If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from SAD, you can help them tremendously by spending more time with the person, even though they may not seem to want any company. Also, you can go outside and do something together. Take a walk, or exercise. Get them to spend some time outside in the natural sunlight. Just remember to bundle up!
Although not as common, a second type of seasonal affective disorder known as summer depression can occur in individuals who live in warmer climates. Their depression is related to heat and humidity, rather than light.