We have all felt some touch of the blues at some point during most Winters. I can usually count on diminished energy levels and my overall mood seems to be dampened more often in Winter. Fewer daylight hours and colder weather (add much more rainfall if you live in the Northwest!) comes with the territory, but for some, it is a much more serious battle with what has come to be called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Below we provide an excerpt on symptoms from a Gila Lindsley, PhD. article, “ABOUT LIGHT THERAPY, SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD), DEPRESSION & MELATONIN.”
Winter Depressions can be very, very severe. Severe enough to disturb how you function and perhaps even interfere with your personal relationships. Mood certainly changes. Some people become sadder, to
the point of experiencing real grief at times. Others become more anxious, and yet others become more irritable. At times the irritability can be so extreme that feelings of violence can erupt. This perhaps is one small part of the reason why the incidence of child abuse seems to increase during the dark months.
Physical activity decreases. One may feel very sedentary, and often sluggish. Physical activity, sometimes of almost any sort, seems to be just too much. On the other hand, appetite, and especially craving for carbohydrates (sugars or starches or alcohol) actually increases. Hypersomnia can develop: most people with SAD end up sleeping for very long hours (or wish they could, if life would allow it). In many ways, other than for the sometimes severe emotional symptoms, it is as if a person were hibernating during the cold, dark months. | (Read the entire article here – PDF)
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you should know there are tools and options for you! In recent years, many have come down significantly in price. Like anything, you pay more for higher quality and if SAD is an important issue for you, you may want to invest in yourself and in the chance to improve your happiness.
MORE from the Lindsley article…
Potential solutions you may want to try
• Pay attention to your moods and energy levels. If you realize that your spirits begin to sink at the end of the summer, take pre-emptive action. A good offense is better than after-the-fact defense.
• Plan active events for yourself in advance of the fall.
• Expose yourelf to as much bright light as you can. If it is a sunny day, go outside as much as you can. If it is grey and overcast, use as much light indoors as you can.
• Stay physically active, and begin your physical activity before the blahs get you.
• Try to establish a mental set that will help you to enjoy the wintertime. It is going to happen, so gear yourself to get pleasure out of it.
• By all means, if you feel yourself sinking and realize you are losing control, don’t feel ashamed or try to hide it. You are in good company. Many people feel this way. Seek competent professional help. What you learn for this season is something you can probably do for yourself in all the falls and winters to come.
Bright light therapy (BLT)
• BLT is the most established treatment for SAD.
• BLT consists of looking at special broad spectrum bright lights from one-half to three hours a day, generally in the early morning hours. One should not stare directly into the lights because of possible eye damage.
• A substantial amount of light is needed, which means the distance from the lights to your eyes needs to be monitored—close enough to give you the best amount of light, but distant enough so you don’t hurt your eyes.
• The timing and length of the exposure per day are highly individual.
• BLT is unlikely to help in certain situations because depressed mood is not always related to the decreasing number of daylight hours. Other possibilities are that you may have an ongoing depression, unlikely to be helped by BLT. Your increasing irritability may be due to your spending more hours in the house cooped up, isolated from friends and neighbors. Or it might be due to keeping your dogs or cats in the house more than you do in the summertime and spring. If you are allergic to cats and dogs, doing this will produce allergy symptoms, which can produce poor sleep, which in turn can produce the impression of SAD–but such a mood change then will definitely not respond to BLT. There are many other sources of depressed mood unrelated to light exposure.
• If a few days of a light trial don’t make a difference in your depression, seek a different kind of help.
• Light sources are available commercially.
Trouble falling asleep? Problems having a night of restful sleep? You’re not alone!
Any health care professional will tell you that a good night’s sleep is critical for good health. If you’re having trouble falling asleep and having a good night of restful sleep, you’re not alone! 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. (CDC reference) New research is revealing an important link between exposure to light from TVs and computer monitors that is high in the blue part of the visible light spectrum and significant problems with sleep. You can, of course, resolve to turn off the TV and step away from your computer at least 2 hours prior to retiring for the evening, but if that’s not possible, there is hope that comes from a new product! Glasses especially designed to block blue light, aka, “blue-blocking” glasses are now available for sale. I have it on good authority that the products from Swanwick are especially effective. See my products page for more details–>
Artificial light from overhead lights in your home, cell phones, ipads, TVs and computer monitors all have an overabundance of “blue light” which tells our brain that it’s daylight and thus interferes with our innate ability to create melatonin in our brain–the hormone that we create to help prepare for normal nighttime sleep. This can lead to problems falling asleep and having the deep, restful sleep we all need for optimal health. This excess blue light exposure late in the day can even lessen the length of REM sleep, which is critical for our mental health.