The shorter, darker days of Autumn and Winter make waking up a struggle for many of us. Summer has gone and Autumn is here which means its getting darker earlier and earlier. It’s hardly surprising that some of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Around 21% of the population experience a less intense form of SAD, which is often referred to as ‘winter blues’, while 8% of the population experience severe symptoms, which can prevent normal function without the right treatment.
SAD is caused by the lack of bright light. Daybreak light is the signal for the pineal gland to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin but in winter the light level is insufficient to trigger this process.
As a result many people find their body clock moving forwards during the winter, making it harder to get up and get going in the mornings.
The symptoms associated with this seasonal disorder include a persistent low mood, being void of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, moodiness, feeling of guilt, worthlessness and despair, weight gain and craving carbohydrates, feeling reluctant to get out of bed in the morning and sleeping for longer, as well as feelings of lethargy and being tired during the day.
Whilst not fully understood, the causes of SAD are linked to a reduction in sunlight during winter, which can prevent a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus from working properly that has been linked to affecting the production of melatonin and serotonin hormones in the brain.
As the NHS advises if you are suffering from the symptoms associated with SAD you should consider seeing your GP. Your doctor will assess your mental health and ask questions related to your lifestyle, mood, sleeping patterns, eating habits, and other elements that may be affecting your mood.
The NHS lists several treatments for SAD, including making changes to lifestyle, such as exercising regularly, going for counselling, taking antidepressant medication, and light therapy.
Here are HealthCare4All’s top 4 tips to help alleviate SAD symptoms
1. SAD Lamps
The theory behind SAD lamps, is that the white light produced by the lamp “effectively replicates sunshine.” By replicating the sun’s rays, users of sad light therapy can find they have a positive response when using SAD light boxes.
When asked which SAD lamp I recommend I always suggest the Beurer TL30 if you are traveling or the ‘all singing and dancing’ Medisana LSC.
Lets take a closer look at both of these…
Light – well-being for body and soul
Ideal for your desk or on the way
Compact size through LED technology
For use in case of light deprivation symptoms in the winter months: e.g. low mood, lack of energy and drive
Simulation of sunlight: Intensity of light approx. 10.000 Lux (at a distance of 15 – 20 cm)
Exceptionally bright and even illumination
Illumination surface approx. 20cm x 12 cm
Flicker-free and UV-free
Light box with daylight
With adjustable stand
Horizontal or vertical orientation
Convenient one-button operation
Certified Medical product
Includes mains adaptor and practical storage bag
The Medisana LSC Photo Therapy Unit SAD Light is a phototherapy unit with full-spectrum light. As well as having energy-saving bulbs, the Medisana LSC Photo Therapy Unit SAD Light is flicker free.
The best time to use SAD light therapy and SAD lamps like the Medisana LSC Photo Therapy Unit is between six in the morning and eight in the evening. Such units can be used for up to two hours a day. Treatment is typically most effective when the lamp is used for at least five consecutive days.
The boost of endorphins you get when exercising could help you feel better by flooding your body with those feel-good chemicals.
What better reason to keep active this autumn and winter (preferably outdoors in natural light, rather than the gym)?
3. Eat more Healthily
We know how the foods we eat can affect our weight but did you know they can affect our mood too?
Make sure you are providing your body with a healthy, balanced diet, and both your weight and your mood could see the positive effects.
4. Try to avoid Stress
High stress levels will only heighten any depressive feelings you’re having.
Where possible, try to avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage the stress levels.