March 5, 2011

041 Seasonal Affective Disorder [7 Dec 2009]

Does winter make you SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs during the winter months and affects an estimated 2-3% of Canadians. Likely another 10% is affected by a milder form.

Symptoms include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, longer sleep, loss of interest in normal activities, appetite changes, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating. It is 4 times as prevalent in women as men and usually begins during the 20’s.  SAD is more common at higher latitudes suggesting a link to daylight levels.

The seasonal change in daylight affects several hormones and neurotransmitters which determine our circadian rhythms. Serotonin production occurs in bright sunlight and keeps us awake and alert; melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the absence of light and is necessary for sleep. In the winter we tend to produce less serotonin and more melatonin. Low serotonin is associated with depression and carbohydrate cravings; high melatonin with sleepiness and loss of concentration. In people with SAD this seasonal change is more pronounced causing more severe symptoms during the winter months.

One effective treatment for SAD is called phototherapy in which the subject is exposed to bright full-spectrum lighting (normal indoor lights are not effective) for periods of half an hour or more a day. Other things that have found to be helpful are:
·           negative ion generator
·           outdoor exercise
·           exposure to sunlight, even through a window
·           supplementation with St. John’s Wort, 5-HTP,
·           amino acids L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine which are precursors to other mood lifting neurotransmitters norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine
·           vitamins B6, B12 and Folic Acid, and D3
·           surprisingly melatonin supplementation at bedtime may help some individuals with SAD who sleep poorly and awake unrefreshed

An even better solution, if you can afford it, is to spend your winters golfing in Hawaii.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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