Use daylight to avoid getting SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
During winter, do you often feel sad, moody or anxious? Do you eat and sleep more? Do you lose interest in your normal activities or gain weight? If so, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Although experts aren’t exactly sure what causes SAD, they believe it may be linked to a deficiency of bright light.
Your body runs using a “biological clock” that is controlled by light and darkness. When exposed to bright light like that from the sun, your biological clock tells your body to wake up. When bright light wanes, your biological clock tells your body to sleep. This 24-hour cycle of light / dark is called the “circadian rhythm” and it’s what drives your biological clock. In addition to sleeping and waking, it also controls critical functions such as body temperature, fluid balance and system function.
When daylight hours decrease during winter months, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off and cause you to become depressed. With SAD, symptoms usually appear in the fall and continue until spring and recur every year during this same timeframe.
While anyone can contract SAD, sometimes known as winter depression, the winter blues, or the hibernation reaction, it’s most common in people who:
- Live in areas with short winter days or where seasons cause extreme changes in the amount of sunlight available
- Are between the ages of 15 and 55
- Are female
- Have a close relative with SAD.
Regular exposure to bright light has been shown to help SAD sufferers. This light therapy can include sitting in front of a “light box” for 30 minutes a day or undergoing dawn simulation, in which a dim light switches on in the morning and grows brighter over time.
Other measures you can take include opening blinds, sitting closer to bright windows, or installing a tubular daylighting device (TDD). A TDD replaces traditional electric lighting by piping natural light into interiors during the day. It does this by capturing sunlight at the roof level using a special optical dome. The light is then transferred through a highly reflective tube and dispersed into the room below it using a diffuser.
A TDD in your home increases your body’s exposure to bright light during the day and may help counteract the effects of SAD or prevent you from getting it in the first place. To learn more, click here.
Don’t let shorter days get the best of you. Take action now to get the bright light you need to be happier and healthier this winter.
What strategies have you used to get enough bright light during winter?
Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.