By Awesome Supplements, Read time: 3 minutes
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder to give it its proper name, is something many of us have heard of and that some are unfortunate enough to experience. You may also have heard it referred to as 'winter depression'.
If you’re not too aware of SAD, it’s a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Although it commonly affects people in the winter, there are also recognised cases of people being affected in the summer who feel better in the winter.
According to the NHS website, symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning. Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight, experiencing difficulty concentrating and a decreased sex drive are other common symptoms.
As you’ll be aware, just having one or two of these symptoms can have a profound impact on your wellbeing.
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. 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 (a hormone that makes you feel sleepy) or the production of serotonin (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.
We also need to consider the 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 as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.
So, these are the facts but what can you do?
The first point to consider would be lifestyle changes. Are you getting any daylight at all? If you’re at work between the hours or 8am and 4pm during the winter months, the chances are you’re not. Even a 20 minute walk during a lunch break can reap huge rewards.
If getting outside is just not possible on some days, you may find light therapy a good option. Special lamps, known as light boxes simulate exposure to sunlight and can be very helpful if you’re struggling. Many come with timers, different shades of light and different options of brightness.
Although the light box can be a great help, we cannot recommend regular exercise and a balanced diet highly enough. Add managing your stress levels to this mix and you are certainly doing some good stuff to keep SAD at bay.
As we said earlier, exposure to sunlight has a huge effect on our serotonin levels. During the Summer, when most of us spend more time outdoors, we are exposed to direct sunlight on our skin. As a result of this, our bodies create Vitamin D. But in the autumn and winter, when the clocks change, the nights draw in and the weather is often miserable, our cold, covered up bodies do not have the opportunity to create this essential vitamin. Although we can get some vitamin D from our food (like oily fish, egg yolks, red meat and some fortified foods), the UK Government recommends that we take a supplement. Rather that taking a multitude of vitamins, a good multivitamin can be easier as well as keeping you safe in the knowledge that you’ve covered all bases. Something like Awesome Defence not only is high in Vitamin D, but focuses on other essential vitamins and minerals that we can be deficient in too. Add this to a healthy, balanced diet and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour.
So, if you’re someone whose health deteriorates during the winter, doing the above is certainly not going to do you any harm. As with any health concerns, we’d also recommend a call to your GP, but if you can go there knowing that you’re doing the basics, you’ll be giving yourself the best opportunity to overcome this debilitating and challenging seasonal disorder.