Tis the Season to Be SAD: 10 Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments
Think you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this winter? You might be experiencing a very real condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This common illness, also called winter depression, is a type of depression that normally presents itself during the winter and fall months.
Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes SAD, but it’s believed that the lack of light during the colder seasons can affect a person’s wake and sleep patterns. This in turn can create a serotonin imbalance in the brain and disrupt our biological clocks.
Some studies suggest that as many as 10 million Americans suffer from SAD, with another 10 to 20 percent experiencing a milder form of the disorder. The condition is more common between the ages of 15 and 55. While anyone can be affected, women are at a higher risk, as well as those who live far from the equator where winter daylight hours are very short.
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Sleeping more and not feeling rested
- Feeling anxious, grumpy, sad or moody
- Trouble concentrating
- Carbohydrate cravings such as pasta and breads
- Weight gain
Coping with any one of these symptoms can be enough to affect an individual’s quality of life. As many as 6 percent of people with a severe case of SAD require hospitalization. It can be a truly painful psychiatric disorder.
Here are 10 Ways to Keep SAD from Ruining Your Winter:
1. Exercise – it’s a well known fact that exercise stimulates chemicals in the brain that lift mood, aids in weight loss and boosts energy levels. Yes, moving around in the winter months can be more of a challenge, but even a brisk walk of 30 minutes a day, either braving the cold or on a treadmill, can work wonders for health.
2. Stay Organized – while we’re holed up in the winter months, it can be easy to allow clutter to invade our homes. This can be an external manifestation of our internal mood. Keeping all the spaces that we regularly inhabit tidy and clean will assist our overall well-being.
3. Drink Less Caffeine – it’s second nature to sip on something warm when there’s a chill in the air. However, avoiding coffee or heavily caffeinated teas after the early morning hours can improve sleep, which is crucial to a good mood.
4. Avoid Alcohol – as with caffeine, alcohol disrupts sleeping patterns and is a depressant to boot. Foregoing beverages with alcohol is always a good idea when feeling down.
5. Lower Your Bedroom Temperature – this might seem counterintuitive during the winter months, but studies have shown that optimal sleep takes place in a colder room, approximately 65-degrees Fahrenheit. A drop in the temperature can trigger your body’s desire to “hit the bed” and get some rest.
6. Get Less Sleep – sleeping too much can have as negative an effect as sleeping too little. Remember, it’s about quality. Not everyone needs eight hours, but to maintain a healthy mental attitude, everyone needs to get good, restful sleep.
7. Boost Your Vitamin D – individuals suffering with SAD often have low levels of vitamin D in their system. This can be due to the fact that sun, which isn’t out as much in the winter, is a good source of the nutrient. Vitamin D supplements are a cheap and effective tool for combating this deficiency.
8. Eat Omega-3 Fatty Acids – there is evidence that low levels of omega-3 in the body can change brain activity, which can affect mood. So it’s a good idea to add an omega-3 supplement, as well as eating fish rich in these acids, to your diet.
9. Socialize – the mere thought of trudging through snow or cold rain can be enough to keep a person on the couch and in front of the television. Getting out and being around friends and loved ones, though, can be enough to lift our spirits and keep us engaged in the outside world.
10. Light Therapy – there are therapeutic light boxes that mimic sunlight. Many people with SAD have found relief with a dose of light for 30 minutes in the morning hours. There are, however, different kinds of light boxes. So speaking to your physician before going out and getting one is a good idea.
Developing some or all of the above habits will go a long way towards shaking off the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and get you waking up on the right side of the bed.
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