I was reminded by a very helpful post on Micki Rose’s blog yesterday that the SAD season is upon us again. Do have a read.
For those who are not acquainted with SAD, although the fallout from the condition is indeed ‘sad’, SAD actually stands for Seasonally Affected Disorder – a condition which affects people in the north in the winter when light levels are low. The pineal gland (a small gland at the bottom of the brain), thinking that we should be hibernating (many people would agree…) increases its production of melatonin (the hormone which makes us sleep) and decreases its production of serotonin (the ‘feel-good’ summer hormone). As a result all we want to do is to sleep and to eat comfort food.
The condition has long been recognised in very northerly latitudes – Russian schoolchildren have to spend time each day under special lights designed to fool their bodies into believing that there is still plenty of light – but until fairly recently it was almost unknown further south. As a result , thousands of people struggled through winters feeling lethargic, depressed and miserable and putting on shedloads of weight as they tried to eat themselves into a better frame of mind – and made more depressed by the fact that they did not know what was wrong with them.
For some the symptoms are so dramatic that they become seriously depressed, isolated and even suicidal. I know one SAD sufferer who says that every wrong decision she has made in her life (and there have been a few…) was made in the winter as, before she discovered light boxes, between the hour going back in October and coming forward again in March, her brain was in such a fog that she could never think straight.
Fortunately, the condition is now much more widely recognised and is treatable. SAD sufferers can now get light boxes which run from as little as £40 to around £250. Micki Rose recommends the Wholistic Research Company for lights. A few hours a day in front of your light will make a very significant difference to how you feel.
An alternative therapy comes from Dr Damien Downing, president of the British Society for Ecological Medicine, who believes that Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) will do the job much better than light boxes – check out his article on the foodsmatter.com site.
For a personal account of what it is like to live with SAD and some extra tips for coping, read Sinnet Morch’s ‘Winter Blues’.
PS 1/12 – Further post from Micki on an excellent new mini lite box.
PPS January 2011 – I have just seen an interesting article on SAD in healthiertalk.com which suggests that blue light may be the most efficient at relieving SAD symptoms. They also make some other useful suggestions for combating SAD.