As we get ready to move the clocks very soon, people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) begin to dread the coming months. Those who suffer from SAD begin to experience:
- crying spells
- trouble concentrating
- body aches
- change in sleep patterns
- decreased activity level
- overeating, especially of carbohydrates.
What causes SAD?
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm): The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels: A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels: The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
- Vitamin D Defeciency: Because vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight, declining levels of Vitamin D may play a role in SAD.
- Living far from the equator. Seasonal affective disorder appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter, and longer days during the summer months.
In high-intensity, full-spectrum light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.
Light therapy is a good place to start for seasonal affective disorder. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects.
Enjoy the sunshine!
Make sure you take advantage of sunny days, and try to get some early morning sunlight exposure. A brisk walk around the block, or walking to work is a great idea.
As with any type of depression, exercise helps to relieve symptoms and has many other benefits.
Work with your ND or MD to ensure that you have adequate stores of Vitamin D. This vitamin is measured using either a blood or saliva test. Some people need to take much more than the recommended 1000 IU/day to meet their needs.
Melatonin is another interesting supplmement, which many people find helpful during the winter months, especially when sleep disruptions are present. Most people can safely start taking melatonin, beginning with 1-3 mg before bed. As always, consult with your ND or MD before taking mealtonin if you are taking any prescription medications.
The Naturopathic Approach
As with any symptom or condition, we work with you to get to the root cause of illness. We asses diet, lifestyle and environment to help you achieve health and wellness. SAD is a condition which responds very well to naturopathic medicine, and has helped many people get through the winter with a little bit more sunshine.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.