Believe it or not but winter is almost here, and it can bring with it bouts of the blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is your body’s response to the decreased sunlight during the days of autumn and winter. Generally, SAD is subtle. While some people do plunge into a deep depression as the seasons change, more often the winter blues are mild. Almost 1 out of every 5 Americans get some degree of SAD with the changing seasons, with higher risk in darker, more northern locales (like Minnesota). Common symptoms include:
- Increased sleep
- Depressed mood
- Trouble focusing
Four effective methods of combating SAD and its effects are light therapy, supplementation, exercise, and chiropractic care. Here’s a closer look at each one.
Vitamin D Supplementation
As the seasons change, you may want to change your supplements, too. Decreased sunlight means you won’t get as much vitamin D than you were during summer. You make vitamin D in response to UV-B light, and while you get plenty of UV-B from the sun, many indoor lights have UV filters. Vitamin D deficiency is common, and low vitamin D links with poor sleep. Taking a high-quality Vitamin D supplement can help you sleep better and reduce the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. Learn more about Vitamin D deficiency here.
Bright Light Therapy: the Seasonal Antidepressant
A primary reason for SAD is the decreased daylight that comes with the colder months. The shortened days throw off your circadian rhythm so you have trouble sleeping. Adding more light to your day can reverse seasonal depression. One study found that 30 minutes of bright, non-UV, white fluorescent light first thing in the morning improved seasonal depression just as well as Prozac did, and a 2005 review of light therapy research found that bright white or blue light and antidepressant treatment are equally effective at relieving SAD.
One of the best sources of light is a good old-fashioned work lamp, like the ones construction workers use on job sites. These lamps cast around $40, and it’ll be easier on your eyes than a fluorescent one. These things are BRIGHT. Shine one or two work lamps on yourself for half an hour right when you get up. Make sure the light is hitting your eyes at an angle; looking directly into a work lamp can damage your retinas.
Avoiding bright light at night is important, too. Bright white or blue light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, and low evening melatonin levels can decrease your sleep quality.
Exercise is great for your mood. According to a review of more than 40 studies, aerobic exercise like running improves symptoms of depression considerably, strength training is even more effective at boosting mood, and the combination of the two works best. While any movement is good movement, high-intensity interval training will give you the biggest mood boost in the shortest time.
Exercise also increases energy levels, making it ideal for beating the mid-afternoon slump that comes from a 4pm sunset. If you find you aren’t motivated to go to the gym, join a recreational sports league, take a dance, yoga, or martial arts class, chase your kids around the house – whatever makes movement fun. Find something active you enjoy. Adults benefit from playtime, too.
Although not a direct treatment for SAD, Chiropractic care helps to offset the side-effects of SAD. One of the most significant effects of SAD is an increase in stress in the body. Prolonged periods of increased stress will cause your immune system to fatigue and stop working as effectively. Chiropractic adjustments can help improve the stress response in your body and help to reduce overall stress in the body.
Also, during the winter months people are less likely to be as active and more likely to sit at work or at home more often. Chronic sitting and immobility is very hard on the body and can cause aches and pains that can last longer than the winter itself. Having regular chiropractic adjustments will help to ensure your body can handle the increased stress of sitting more frequently.
If you have any questions regarding SAD or would like to schedule a time to speak with a doctor about whether Chiropractic or Vitamin D supplementation is right for you, please feel free to contact us!