“So SAD, So Sad” – A Situation We Can Get Out Of?
It’s thought that the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), impacts around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million across northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.
SAD is called the winter blues because the symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter. However, some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer also.
The UK is above 50 degrees of latitude so our days get shorter in the winter and this can have a profound effect on some people. Some of the symptoms of SAD are listed below:
- Persistent low mood
- Loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Cravings for carbohydrates and as a result weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased sex drive
What Causes SAD?
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it’s often linked to reduced sunlight exposure 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 from working properly, which may affect the:
- Production of melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher levels than normal.
- Production of serotonin – Serotonin is 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.
- 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. If any of this sounds familiar, then you should consider the following:
- Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Go out for walks, park a bit further from your office, if you have a lunch break go for a walk or exercise outside, take work calls outside if you can.
- Invest in a light box that has full spectrum light and use this every day.
- Consider taking vitamin D3 as this is made in the body when exposed to sunlight and you may become deficient during the winter.
- Exercise as this will help regulate your sleep patterns and mood.
- Think about supplementing Omega 3 essential fatty acids as it will help the parts of the brain that regulate mood.
- Research light alarm clocks that wake you up as if the sun is rising and therefore replicate summer day lengths. This will improve your sleep cycles.
- If possible, get away for a winter holiday. It gives you a goal, a focus and helps to break up the winter as well as topping up your vitamin D3 levels.
- Reach out to friends who may be feeling the same as a problem shared is a problem halved. Also talking to a trained psychologist about cognitive behavioural therapy could be worthwhile.
When To See A GP?
You should consider seeing a GP if you think you might have SAD and you’re struggling to cope. Your GP can then carry out an assessment to check your mental health. They may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post on SAD, we hope you found it useful. Should you require any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us today at David Jones Personal Training and one of our fantastic team members will get back to you shortly.