During the winter, it’s not uncommon to feel a little down with the cold weather and less sunlight. In fact, about 10 million Americans experience a type of seasonal depressive episode called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, tells us everything we need to know about SAD.
What causes SAD?
Nurse Rose: SAD is likely caused by the lack of sunlight which sets of some hormonal and chemical changes in your body, including:
- Disruption to your biological clock or circadian rhythm. The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock leading to increased feelings of depression.
- Drop in serotonin. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in this brain chemical that boosts your mood.
- Change in melatonin levels. The change in season can cause a disruption in the balance of melatonin which helps regulate your body’s sleep patterns and moods.
- Less Vitamin D. The body gets less sunlight during the winter, which it needs to activate Vitamin D. Some studies have suggested Vitamin D deficiency might be linked to seasonal depression.
What are the signs and symptoms of SAD?
Nurse: Signs of SAD include:
- Feelings of depression most days
- Appetite changes, especially craving carbs
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
How can people boost their mood during the winter?
Nurse Rose: Try these tips to ward off SAD.
- Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule
- Keep your blinds open to let it the sunlight
- Stay connected with family and friends
- Exercise regularly
- Try light therapy with a light that mimics natural sunlight – these can be purchased at many stores or online
If you continue to feel depressed, lose interest in activities that you normally enjoy or have thoughts of suicide – talk to your primary care doctor about getting help.
Rose Melendez, RN
Head of Emergency Department
Rose Melendez, RN is the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital. Tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to listen to Nurse Rose live on the radio.