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It’s that time of year again as the nights draw in and the clocks come forward an hour. We will be preparing for longer nights and shorter days. Many of us take this seasonal change in our stride but 15% of us suffer terribly with the condition otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that affects approximately 1 in 8 people every winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February.
It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. The hormone melatonin is produced by the pineal gland at night and it aids sleep, natural sunlight suppresses the production of melatonin and improves immune function. Therefore, during the winter months when natural sunlight is at its lowest SAD can occur.
For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, 1 in 50, it is a mild but debilitating condition causing tiredness, lethargy, sleep and eating problems. It is commonly known as “the winter blues”.
Many of people are puzzled year after year when every winter they seem to feel tired, lethargic, and suffer a loss of enthusiasm or energy. A great deal of those people do not realize that they are experiencing the symptoms are SAD, instead they believe that it is the feeling of the lazy days of summer disappearing and the grey days winter are approaching.
The main recognisable symptoms of SAD are the following:
Firstly visit your GP. This should always be your first option as your GP will always be able to check your symptoms in order to confirm SAD and recommend all the appropriate treatments and medical options.
By exposing patients to very bright light (at least ten times the intensity of ordinary domestic lighting) for up to four hours per day (average 1-2 hours) light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases.
Some light boxes emit higher intensity of light, up to 10,000 Lux, which can cut treatment time down to half an hour a day. Light boxes have to be bought from specialist retailers and are priced around £100
It is important to understand light is measured by what we call Lux. To get this in perspective a candle gives out 1 Lux, a household light bulb 350 Lux, and the sun in the summer gives out 100,000 Lux. Even on a winters afternoon the winter sun can give out as much as 30,000 Lux. Have you ever wondered why you feel better when the sun shines?
Psychotherapy, counseling or any complementary therapy which helps the sufferer to relax, accept their illness and cope with its limitations are extremely useful.
Integrated mind therapies, inclusive of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Hypnotherapy have also proven to be very effective.
To summarise, get outside in the sunshine as much as possible as it will drive your endorphin production (the bodies natural opiates) which in turn combats adrenaline and reduces mood related problems. You will get your light relief and mood relief twice from two different external factors.
Visit the Life Practice Nutrition website for further details about our Registered Nutritional Therapist and services offered.
Visit the Life Practice main website for information on our Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy, NLP and Life Coaching services.