Are you SAD? How to combat being SAD!
December 3, 2018
Dr Andrew Thornber, Chief Medical Officer at Now Patient
Are you SAD? How to combat being SAD!Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is it?The clocks have changed, and the hours of daylight have diminished, and the long hot Summer days seem like a distant memory.The darker evenings lead more people to feel anxious, depressed, exhausted, lack of energy or motivation – which can often mean you are suffering with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder or more commonly referred to as the winter blues!Seasonal Affective Disorder thought to be linked to the reduced light which winter and the seasonal change brings.
- Low self-esteem
- Reduced libido
- Withdrawing from social events
How is it caused?
- There is still research into what exactly causes SAD, but the main theory is that a lack of sunlight may the main contributor.
- The UK and Ireland undergo substantial changes in light due to being in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere.
- The changes in the clocks going back an hour and the lack of daylight are thought to disrupt the body clock and low serotonin levels.
- The lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:
- production of melatonin– melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
- production of serotonin– Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. A lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression, affect your mood, appetite and sleep. Day light being is a natural stimulant and helps to produce Serotonin, once this starts reducing, natural circadian rhythms are dramatically disrupted.
- body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD/
- It’s also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD because of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.
- A physical illness or trauma can sometimes trigger SAD too.
What can you do to make it better?
- Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Have a little walk outside at lunchtime – this can help!
- Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible
- Sit near windows when you’re indoors.
- take plenty of outdoor exercise in natural light.
- eat a healthy, balanced diet. People with SAD generally crave carbs but get lots of food rich in vitamins.
- if possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress
- Take vitamins B12 and D to help combat symptoms.
- Light therapy can help some people with their moods. This involves sitting by a special lamp called a light box, usually for around 30 minutes to an hour each morning.
- If symptoms persist, speak to your GP.
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