Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that results in fatigue, depression, lack of motivation, change in appetite, oversleeping, weight gain and moodiness during the winter months. Less daylight, rainy weather and colder temperatures typically define the winter season. Add in depression or other low moods and you have a cold and drizzly sense of being.
SAD can be mild or severe and can affect anyone. It is more common in areas further from the equator and those with a history of depression. It typically begins in late fall or early winter but onset can vary similar to the intensity. The lack of daylight is a major trigger but the exact cause is unknown. With shorter daylight hours, the body’s circadian rhythms adjust resulting in the pineal gland releasing more sleep hormones then waking hormones. There is also less vitamin D produced in the body with less exposure to sunlight, both from less hours and intensity of sunlight, and typically having less skin exposed from wearing more clothes.
Naturopathic physicians have treatments for SAD in addition to the recommended light therapy and vitamin D. Light therapy is a fairly easy treatment requiring 30 minutes a day in front of a light box. Light boxes have been shown to be effective in treating many cases of SAD. Make sure you purchase a light box specific to treating SAD and think about when and where you are going to use it to help you decide which model is the best fit for you. Light boxes designed to treat SAD filter out most UV rays to minimize or eliminate damage to your skin or eyes. That said, each brand has different filtering levels so try to find one that filters as much UV as possible.
Vitamin D is another common and effective treatment for SAD. Talk to you naturopath about dosing and timing of vitamin D to maximize the benefits. There are other natural treatments that we can use to further treat, and ideally prevent SAD from developing.
If you are struggling this winter with increased fatigue, decreased motivation or any other symptom of SAD, stop in at Flow Natural Health Care located in Milwaukie, just minutes from Portland to get relief and get your life back.
By Marsha Hamilton