WINTER WELLNESS SERIES: SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD.
It’s Winter. Whilst you may be feeling cooler, you dread winter due to feeling an association to a change in seasons such as Winter Depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is associated with the feeling of winter depression and feeling normal or very happy in Summer. Individuals who genuinely go through SAD feel depressed, generally slow down, over sleep, over eat and crave carbohydrates in winter. In the summer, these same individuals feel elated, active and energetic.
There are many variables that may predispose an individual to SAD but the most researched and evident reason is lack of exposure to full spectrum natural light.
Many mammals exhibit seasonal variation in activity levels, sleep patterns and appetite and are extremely sensitive to changes in the day length. The key hormonal change may be a reduced secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland and an increased secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands.
Melatonin supplementation during the night may therefore relieve the symptoms of SAD due to increasing brain melatonin levels. It may also be responsible for suppressing cortisol secretion. Melatonin 3mg forty-five minutes before bedtime.
Since the cause of SAD appears to be light related, the treatment goal is to extend the length of light exposure on Winter Days. Full spectrum light therapy that replicates natural sunlight has been used to treat both SAD and clinical depression. The anti depressive effect of such light therapy has been demonstrated in well-monitored and controlled studies. This effect is probably due to the restoration of proper melatonin synthesis and secretion by the pineal gland leading to the re establishment of proper circadian rhythms- the natural 24 hour rhythmic release of hormones.
St John’s Wort:
St Johns Wort has been proven to relieve SAD. Effective on it’s own, it is even more effective when combined with light therapy. It must be at least 0.3% hypericin content, 300mg 3 times a day. As there is a cautionary stance with St Johns Wort for those under 12, and those taking other medications, it is best to see a Qualified Professional Practitioner.