The clocks “fall back” this year on November 1st. What does this mean for all of us? First of all, it means that we get to sleep in an extra hour. For a mother with 4 kids that sounds like a little bit of heaven. Luckily for me my kids are all at the age where the like to sleep in too so lucky me – the day after Halloween I will likely get to sleep until noon.
The time change also means that there will be less day light for the next 6 months. Many people think that feeling blue in winter is just due to a mixture of cold weather and lack of sunshine, but that is not the only culprit. But 4 to 6 percent of people have a full-blown winter depression which is clinically referred to as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Another 10 to 20 percent have mild SAD. SAD is 4 times more common in women than in men. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than age 20. SAD goes undiagnosed in many people.
The following are symptoms to look for to see if you are suffering from SAD
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
How is SAD treated?
Many people with SAD find that their symptoms respond to a treatment called bright light therapy. Doctors will prescribe a lamp or light box that you plug-in at home. Light therapy consists of daily exposure to a lamp/light which artificially simulates high-intensity sunlight. You spend approximately 30 minutes sitting in front of this device shortly after you awaken in the morning. Treatment usually continues from the time of year that a person’s symptoms begin, such as in fall, on a daily basis throughout the winter months. Scientific studies have shown light therapy to be as effective as antidepressants in many cases of SAD. Light therapy may also work faster than antidepressants for some people with notable effects beginning with in a few days of starting treatment.
I personally deal with seasonal sadness and have found that light is very helpful. If you can’t get a prescribed light from your doctor try sitting and reading an hour a day in the sunlight that comes through a window in your home. The warmth and light will help your mood and make you feel better. A healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a well-rounded diet and good real life social connections, will also help you cope with SAD.