How to help SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
You may be familiar with SAD, if not here’s a quick overview;
“SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although most people feel a little down when winter hits, 6% of the population are affected by SAD with symptoms severe enough to disrupt their lives.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
Sleep problems: oversleeping (but not feeling refreshed) and difficulty staying awake, or in some cases disturbed sleep and early morning wakening
Lethargy: too tired to cope, everything becomes an effort
Overeating: craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods leading to weight gain
Depression: feelings of despair, misery, guilt, anxiety, hopelessness, normal tasks become frustratingly difficult
Social problems: avoiding family and friends, irritability, inability to handle stress, feeling emotionally numb, loss of libido
Physical symptoms: often joint pain or stomach problems and a lowered resistance to infection
Behavioural problems: extemes of mood and short periods of overactivity in spring and autumn
While there aren't any actually proven causes of SAD there are some suggestions below;
Circadian rhythms. Your body’s internal clock or sleep-wake cycle responds to changes between light and dark to regulate your sleep, mood, and appetite. The longer nights and shorter days of winter can disrupt your internal clock—leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times.
Production of melatonin. When it’s dark, your brain produces the hormone melatonin to help you sleep and then sunlight during the day triggers the brain to stop melatonin production so you feel awake and alert. During the short days and long nights of winter, however, your body may produce too much melatonin, leaving you feeling drowsy and low on energy.
Production of serotonin. The reduced sunlight of winter can lower your body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. A deficit may lead to depression and adversely affect your sleep, appetite, memory, and sexual desire.
But what can we do about it?
According to the NHS ‘exposure to bright light every day’ is the answer.
That sounds pretty easy right?
Well, if like me, you work in an office which isn’t well lit naturally, and commute during the winter months in the dark, it can actually be pretty hard to get that exposure to bright light.
The UV lights in offices are usually horrendous and don’t work well for the ‘bright light’ referred above.
A few years ago my friend mentioned how her boyfriend suffered from SAD, and had bought one of these lights that replicated sunlight and how much it had helped him through winter. I was doubtful and although i wanted one it got pushed to the back of my mind like most non-essential things do!
However, as the seasons started to change this year, I woke up one morning at my usual body clock time of 6am, and realised that yes, it was dark. My instant thought was “I am not ready for this”. The weather seems to change so drastically in the Uk that sometimes you can forget what time of year it is.
Anyway, I instantly went onto google and searched for Lumi Light. A brand I’d heard of before, but never really looked into.
My search led me to Boots.
An offer was on Lumi Lights.
Added to basket, and ordered.
When I received the light in the post I was excited.
But I wasn’t ready for just how much this little light would impact my life!
The light has multiple settings and functions, with different coloured lights, the sunrise and sunset simulation and alarm with sounds that are SO much better than the god awful iPhone alarm.
I set the alarm and the sunrise simulation starts 30 minutes before, gradually getting brighter with the intension to wake you up naturally with its light opposed to waiting for the actual alarm to go off.
The first night I genuinely couldn’t believe how it worked. I woke up naturally about 5 minutes before the alarm was due to go off. I felt tired but I didn’t feel drained like I normally would.
As the days go on and I use it more and more, my body has become more accustomed to it, and now i naturally wake up about 15 - 20 minutes before the alarm goes off but I don’t feel anywhere near as exhausted as I would have normally.
I then go let the dog out, make a coffee and get back in bed with the light still on, drink my cup of life and just soak up the brightness it lets off.
It’s a delightful morning routine, which has totally transformed my mood and my morning routine.
I’m yet to try the sunset function, as I’m an avid ASMR fan and find this is, for me, the best thing to send me off into a decent nights sleep and i’m pretty solidly set into my routine with watching my favourites on Youtube before I go to bed, but the sunrise simulator has actually changed my life!
Some other tips to take control of SAD include;
Get as much sunlight as possible - using a light such as Lumi or similar, being outdoors as much as possible when you can, sitting near windows when in the office or at home, opening blinds and curtains).
Exercise regularly - 'Regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. In fact, exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Exercise can also help to improve your sleep and boost your self-esteem'.
Speak up - talking to your friends and family regardless of how silly you may feel will help with your mental health, especially during the second lockdown when isolation is going to impact so many of us.
Eat a well balanced diet - protein, carbs, vegs and good fats all contribute to your physical and mental health - if you'd like help with your diet and what you should be eating email me to discuss how a Lyfe plan could help you today!
Speak to your GP - if you feel like you're struggling and nothing is really helping, please speak to your GP and seek advice on where to go next.
It can be so so hard during these winter months to keep positive, to deal with the daily grind, to even just get up in a morning. And if you suffer from SAD it’s 10 times worse.
You may not even be aware that it’s something you suffer from, so I definitely advise speaking to your GP if you feel like any of the symptoms sound familiar.
I’d then 100% recommend investing in a Lumi Light or similar. There’s lots of variations out there!
As we head into a second lockdown, in the peak of the winter months, it’s essential that we take care of our mental wellbeing as much as our physical.
If you’re struggling at all my DM’s and email is always open for confidential conversations, no matter what you want to talk about. Please don’t feel like you can’t talk to someone during this difficult time.
Thanks for reading