FAQ: SAD & Winter Blues
SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is now widely recognized as a medical condition, affecting about 25% of the population. Typical symptoms include: excessive tiredness, weight gain, social withdrawal, depressed mood, irritability, difficulty concentrating, carbohydrate cravings, and decreased libido (sex drive). Research has shown supplementing your exposure to light has benefits not only for Winter Blues, but also Jet Lag, PMS, Bulimia Nervosa, Fatigue, and non-seasonal Major Depression. SAD sufferers find that daily use of a good quality light therapy lamp enough to relieve them of their feelings of lethargy, depression and other related symptoms.
II.What Causes SAD?
When the light passes through the eyes into the brain, serotonin is released. During the fall and winter, there is less daylight than in the spring and summer, which causes a drop in the body's serotonin levels.
Serotonin is an important chemical in the brain known as a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a molecule in the brain that helps nerve cells to work together. One of the roles serotonin has in the brain is to act as a traffic cop to other neurotransmitters. Without enough serotonin, a wide range of body functions is affected, including mood. Less daylight is a trigger for the body to increase production of a certain hormone - melatonin. The role of melatonin is not clearly understood, but it is thought to help in the sleep process. The body releases it at night, during sleep.
Together, the lack of serotonin (which helps nerve cells cooperate) and the increase in melatonin (which put a body to sleep) cause SAD.
III.How do I know if I've got SAD?
If you always start to feel the symptoms start the same time each year, every Autumn/Winter it's very likely you suffer from SAD.
IV.Top 9 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
1. Light up your life. Spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight can be really helpful. Keep curtains open in the daytime, let the light in!
2. Get moving. Take up regular exercise, it will reduce your stress and increase your endorphin levels- the feel good chemical - walking, swimming, cycling or aerobics.
3. Use a Light Therapy Lamp.
4. Dawn simulation. Some people, especially those that need to wake in the morning when it is still dark may benefit from lamps that simulate a slow, gradual sunrise, in the final hours of sleep. The gentle natural waking can really help with mood and alertness, and alleviate sleep problems.
5. Buy a negative ionizer. Research in light therapy has also shown that SAD sufferers may benefit from negative ionizers.
6. Eat more: raw fruits, vegetables, bananas, soy products, brown rice, millet, beans, and herbal teas.
7. Eat less: fat, protein, red meat, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, refined sugars.
8. Useful vitamins and minerals: Take daily magnesium and B complex vitamins. Take Vitamin D3, which helps in the utilization of calcium, phosphorus and in the assimilation of Vitamin A. A dose of 400 to 800 IU per day is recommended. Take Omega-3 essential fatty acids, shown to be effective in alleviating mild depression and symptoms of SAD.
9. Aromatherapy: Scents have been proven to have a powerful effect on our moods. The following are particularly effective in the treatment of mild SAD symptoms: Lemon Balm (mild sedative), Rosemary (Uplifting), Blend of Orange and Cinnamon, Lavender (to help you sleep), Grapefruit Oil, Blend of Jasmine and Bergamot oil (uplifting mix).
V.SAD and Winter Blues
Winter Blues is the common name for Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), which is a sub-type of major depression. Up to 25% of North Europeans have some form of winter blues, and roughly twice as many women as men develop this condition. Most experience symptoms starting between the ages of twenty and forty, but even young children may be affected. Typically the symptoms are depressed mood, losing interest in work or social activities, eating more and weight gain, needing more sleep, feeling lethargic and drowsy. The symptoms start from September to March, December, January, and February are typically the worst months. The further from the equator, the higher is the incidence of SAD, due to the shorter winter days.
For example, winter blues is ten times more common in the northern countries than in the south. Children and teenagers also suffer from winter blues. Symptoms may include grades falling in the winter and rising in the spring, or poor relations at school during winter. Researchers in northern climates have found that as many as 90% of 12-15 year-olds report a lack of energy, depressed mood, or need for added sleep during winter. Both children and teenagers have been shown to respond well to light therapy. Light therapy for winter blues usually consists of 15-60 minutes of light every morning during the dark, depressing winter days. Typically, you will recognize when you've received sufficient light therapy.
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