The causes of S.A.D
There are several factors that are thought to affect the brain chemistry and induce the symptoms of SAD - they are all related to light. Research has found that a lack of Seratonin, a brain chemical that seems to be triggered by sunlight, may cause the low winter mood. Melatonin, a sleep related hormone, levels may be a contributory factor. Disruption of the boy's circadian clock (or internal rhythms of sleeping and waking) is also thought to cause problems affecting our mood. There is more information on sleep patterns in the wellbeing pages.
What is S.A.D?
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is the generic term for a range of symptoms usually triggered by the lower light levels of the autumn / winter season. The lower light and sunshine levels of northern regions can also produce SAD symptoms. Winter's shorter darker days can create lower mood, lethargy, fatigue and sleep problems.
The symptoms of SAD may begin in September depending on your local climate and weather factors and start to subside as light levels improve in the spring and summer months. It is estimated that approximately 2% of people in Northern Europe are seriously affected with a further 10% of people experiencing milder symptoms (subsyndromal SAD). The incidence of SAD appears to increase with the distance from the equator. subsyndromal SAD or winter blues is a milder, more common related condition which may still be debilitating.
As with any condition that affects mood, sleep patterns or wellbeing it is important to check with a qualified medical practitioner if you experience symptoms in order to establish a correct diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment advice.
It is not possible for us all to migrate south during the darker months however in 75% of sufferers some form of light therapy or dawn/dusk simulation has been found to be very effective. In addition the following simple methods followed regularly could be helpful:
Try to go outside whenever there is natural sunlight taking a walk is excellent for improving mood and improving energy levels.
If you suffer every year from the symptoms of SAD try arranging your holiday during these months and spend as much time as you can in a sunnier climate.
Ensure your sleeping patterns are
well established during the summer months so that the positive habits are in place before you are affected by the low light levels begin. A Sunrise System dawn/dusk simulator is designed to help regularise sleep and wake up patterns using light (and optional sound) to encourage your body to sleep and wake in a natural routine.
Complementary therapies such as acupuncture and aromatherapy plus yoga and most forms of gentle exercise are useful in conjunction with light therapy when treating seasonal affective disorder. Always go to an accredited practitioner recommended by your doctor.