24 Oct Seasonal Affective Disorder – S.A.D – How to stay ahead
The leaves have slowly begun to change colours and the air has shifted to being a little dryer and cooler as the daylight hours diminish. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience at a particular time of year or during a particular season.
Most of us are affected by the change in seasons – it is normal to feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, or to find that you eat more or sleep longer in winter. However, if you experience SAD, the change in seasons will have a much greater effect on your mood and energy levels, and lead to symptoms of depression that have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. However the symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter.
Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms of SAD can include:
• a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities together with a persistent low mood
• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
• feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day
• craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
For many people, these symptoms can be serious and have a significant impact on their daily activities.
What causes SAD?
Interestingly, the exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood, but the main theory is that a 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. The production of serotonin may also be affected. Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression.
Treatments for SAD
A range of treatments are available for SAD.
The main treatments are:
- lifestyle measures, including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels. When the sunlight retracts with the advent of Autumn, I try to do as many activities outside as I possibly can during daylight hours.
- vitamin D is crucial in the battle against SAD, when employees enter and leave the office in the dark. So, I always make sure that I am topped up on our MAGICAL MULTI VITAMINS. I take x 2 every day
- light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight. Light therapy boxes for SAD treatment are also known as light boxes, bright light therapy boxes and phototherapy boxes.
Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box
All light boxes for SAD treatment are designed do the same thing, but one may work better for you than another. Features such as light intensity, safety, cost and style are important considerations.
A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.
Here are some questions to think about when buying a light box for seasonal affective disorder (SAD):
- Is the light box made specifically to treat SAD? If not, it may not help your depression.
- How bright is it? (look for a light box that provides the right intensity of light at a comfortable distance)
- How much UV light does it release? Light boxes for SAD should be designed to filter out most UV light. Look for a light box that emits as little UV light as possible. Contact the manufacturer for safety information if you have questions.
- Does it use LEDs? Traditionally, light boxes have used fluorescent or incandescent lights. Some manufacturers now sell light boxes with light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
- Does it emit blue light? Typically, light boxes use white light, but some light boxes give off blue light with a shorter wavelength. There is much more research available to support the use of bright white light to treat SAD than there is for blue light.
- Is it the style you need? Some light boxes look like upright lamps, while others are small and rectangular. You can even buy a battery-powered light therapy device attached to a visor, but it isn’t clear yet whether this type of light works as well as a standard light box. Because the effectiveness of a light box depends on daily use, it’s important to buy one that is convenient for you.
There are a few options available for Light Boxes. I prefer to use a Light Box at my desk. So I use the Lumie Desk Lamp – Sad Light Box and Lamp in One – You can find out more about it here
Make sure that your Desklamp is powerful enough to be an effective treatment for SAD; using it every day over the autumn and winter will make a big difference to symptoms such as tiredness, over-eating and a lack of energy and motivation.
If you prefer a general Lightbox, you can use the Lumie Arabica Sad Lightbox – a simple and effective lightbox ideal for use at home. Apparently, the light gives off a very natural bright beam of light, however, if the surface is uneven, like a sofa, the light may fall over! You can find out more about it here
We have also heard good reports about the BEURER TL 30 SAD LAMP
Talk to your health care professional about light box options. Doctors recommend that you be under the care of a health care provider while using light box therapy. If you are experiencing both SAD and bipolar disorder, the advisability and timing of using a light box should be carefully reviewed with your doctor.
For more information on health, nutrition, lifestyle visit chrisjamesmindbody.com
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