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Do you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you’re still struggling to adapt to the darker mornings and evenings, it could mean you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. This condition is brought on by the disruption to the Circadian rhythm that autumn brings, and winter sets in stone for a long three months.

It’s thought that SAD originates from the difficulty of structuring our day heavily on a 9 until 5 patterns, rather than relying on light. Back in the day, in the wintertime, we are likely to have gone to bed when it got dark, and risen with the sun. However, in the modern-day, some of us never see the sun during the week while we’re travelling to and from work, and this can have a huge impact on our health.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms range from difficulty getting out of bed in the morning to craving large amounts of carbohydrate-rich food, a bit like an animal wanting to go into hibernation! In more severe circumstances, SAD sufferers will have similar symptoms to those of depression and may find it difficult to carry out their normal, everyday life. Around 6% of the UK population are thought to suffer from the condition, but many more go undiagnosed or get treated incorrectly for depression.

According to The Guardian, something that seems to be particularly affected by SAD are levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety, happiness and mood.

“Increasing evidence from various imaging and rodent studies suggests that the serotonin system may be directly modulated by light. Natural sunlight comes in a variety of wavelengths, and it is particularly rich in light at the blue end of the spectrum. When cells in the retina, at the back of our eye, are hit by this blue light, they transmit a signal to a little hub in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that integrates different sensory inputs, controls our circadian rhythms and is connected to another hub called the raphe nuclei in the brain stem, which is the origin of all serotonin neurons throughout the brain.”

This may all sound quite complex, but what it essentially comes down to is spending too long indoors in the winter meaning a lack of natural light, which releases serotonin to make us functional and happy. It’s also thought that milder winters don’t help as the cloud coverage often means shorter days and low-quality light. A frosty or snow-covered winter often helps SAD sufferers because of the light reflection on the white ground and the slightly longer days, plus, snow is renowned for being fun.

As we can’t just rely on the British weather to get us through the winter, there are plenty of alternative therapies. The most popular and effective treatment is bright-light therapy where Sad-specific ultraviolet filtered light is used to trigger the brain’s neurotransmitters. So, if you’ve started to feel under the weather this winter before you start taking depression tests, make sure you consider whether you could be suffering from SAD, and get the treatment you need.

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