Many people suffer from fatigue, depression, greater need for sleep and lethargy during the winter months and this could be due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I can relate to a few of these. I have the vague idea that SAD has something to do with lack of sunlight, although the exact cause is still officially unknown. I don’t know whether I can say that I am affected by SAD, but I moved from an area of the country where there is a lot of sunlight to an area with less sun . I also worked outside in the sun frequently until about a year ago. I feel the difference.
I have noticed the lack of sunlight, even in the summer here, so I am going to assume that SAD has a lot to do with the sun and its effects on the body, such as:
Your biological clock. Less sunlight in fall and winter may cause SAD. The decrease in sunlight could interfere with your body’s internal clock.
Serotonin levels. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, affects mood, and a reduction in sunlight could result in a drop in serotonin levels.
Melatonin levels. Seasonal changes may interfere with the body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin plays a part in sleep patterns and mood.
SAD seems to appear more frequently in people who live further away from the equator. Once again, this could be because of less sunlight in these areas.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
Need for more sleep
Greater need to eat
To counter SAD, a person should get out into the sun, if you can find it, every day for a reasonable period of time.
Light therapy can also be used. This involves a full spectrum light shined into the eyes indirectly, for an increasing amount of time over days or longer. Ask a doctor about this treatment.
I have found that vitamin D3 supplements help. This vitamin is naturally manufactured in the body by exposure to sunlight.
Lack of vitamin D in the winter due to less sunlight seems to fit in with my feeling that it has a lot do do with SAD. Supplements can come as vitamin D2 and D3, but vitamin D3 is believed to be more effective.
It is best to get outdoors during the early morning hours, and the light itself even without direct sunlight shining on a person is believed to help. I expect people could suffer from some or all of the symptoms of SAD year round, due to many people working in buildings. I am not sure that the light absorbed by a 30 minute drive to work would do much to help, direct exposure to the light without any barriers seems to be best.
If you find that the symptoms still don’t ease up, there is always the doctor.