Sunday, 30 November 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Winter Depression

The long nights and dull days of winter can cause some people to experience feelings of low mood; this is called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD). A milder version of SAD is known as “winter depression”.

SAD is characterized by

  • The inability to feel happy or to experience pleasure (depression)
  •  Increase need of sleep
  • Profound tiredness (fatigue)
  • Increase appetite (particularly for carbohydrate-rich food such as bread, pasta, potatoes
  • Weight gain during the winter months

SAD affects people living in counties that have long, dark winter months. It is extremely rare in people living near the Equator, where daylight hours are long and there is far more sunny weather.

In Canada and in the UK up to 4% of the population have SAD, compared to 2% of the US population.

Anyone can develop SAD disorder at any age; the common age of onset id between 28 and 30 years old. Two to four times as many women suffer from SAD than men.

SAD id believed to be caused by an imbalance of an hormone called “melatonin” (the sleep hormone). The production of melatonin is usually “turn off” in the morning in response to increased light levels and “turn on” again at night. The sleep hormone levels of people with SAD disorder do not fall in the morning, and so they continue to feel very tired and sleepy all day.

The Treatment

One of the main treatments for SAD is light therapy; this is effective in more then 85% of diagnosed SAD cases. Light therapy works best in the morning; the increased light levels are believed to cause a reduction in melatonin production and, thus, reduce the desire to sleep during daytime.

The light units are measure in “lux”.

  • The indoor light is around 500 lux
  • The outdoor light in a cloudy day is up to 5000 lux  
  • Mid-day summer sunlight can reach at least 50,000 lux

The photo-bio stimulation of the light therapy with the Bioptron lamps can reach up to 22,000 lux in one session, which is ideal in the treatment of SAD, with the additional advantage that the light can relieve symptoms from many other diseases and health problems in the same application.

About the author

Marcela Gaxiola, Light Therapist, goal is to guide her patients to discover their own healing power and regain their ability of self-healing; to help them become responsible for their own health and to improve their overall wellbeing through the use of complementary therapies, life changes and positive energy.

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