For some, the coming of winter is a SAD story

Gloomy, dark days when the sun goes down too early.

Gloomy, dark days when the sun goes down too early.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that generally appears when the seasons change. When the time changes from daylight savings time in the fall, it can be overwhelming for many.

Although the extra hour of sleep is heavenly when the clocks are first changed, eventually the darkness of the evening comes all too soon. At this point, many people feel the need to sleep in longer; they feel tireder and moddier, and the fireplace becomes a friend. According to The Mayo Clinic’s Website, 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.” This disorder has a great deal to do with the light that we are exposed to throughout the year as well.

We receive about half as much natural sunlight in the winter as we do in the summer. It is also colder in winter than in summer. The change in natural daylight and in heat exposure from summer to winter can greatly affect our circadian rhythms.

Circadian rhythms are the 24-hour cycle of physiological functions in our bodies, including our sleep cycle. According to Psychology Today, it’s our “body clock.” They report: “This internal body clock is affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature.” There is a correlation between Seasonal Affective Disorder and the changes that occur to our circadian rhythms. A study conducted by Arch Gen Psychiatry concluded “patients with SAD have circadian rest/activity rhythms that are significantly phase-delayed and more poorly entrained to the 24-hour day.” This means that since people suffering from SAD are affected when there is less natural light and less natural heat, usually in fall and winter months, their circadian rhythm is greatly affected.

How does one know when and if they have SAD?  

“There are no lab tests that can be done for SAD but a psychiatrist can diagnose a patient, based on their health history and their symptoms,” according to WebMD. If one does have the disorder, there is no reason to worry because there are many ways to treat it. “The most effective treatment for SAD is light therapy, sometimes combined with antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or both.”

Light therapy entails sitting close to a special “light box” for 30 minutes a day, usually as soon after waking up as possible. These boxes provide 10,000 lux (“lux” is a measure of light intensity). That’s about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more,” says Harvard Health Publications.

But some people with less severe cases of SAD, don’t mind waiting out the dark, cold, fall and winter months until that beautiful summer sun shines brightly and undisturbed once again. The sun will shine again.

Sascia Smith-Jensen

Sascia is a second-year journalism student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. In between her schooling, she has worked at CTV Newsroom in Vancouver as an intern on the news desk, as well as with Lynda Steele. She would like to eventually work in the field of communications and public relations. In her spare time, Sascia enjoys singing in a Vancouver based gospel choir as well as staying active and helping in her community.

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