What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

At the end of March, the clocks turn back, and we welcome the warmer months. We look forward to lighter evenings, warmer weather and the upcoming summer. For many of us though, we can struggle with the dark nights and cold weather of the winter we have just been through. But when does struggling with winter turn into a different entity entirely? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be characterised as a winter depression. You may have heard about SAD, but what some people don’t know is that it can actually affect people all year round. SAD is different to feeling blue or down during the winter months though.  

SAD, like other forms of depression, has two main symptoms; consistent low mood and a lack of interest in life or activities you used to enjoy. Other symptoms can include sleeping more often and being less active than usual. Eating more can also occur. These symptoms may only occur during winter and may disappear during spring and summer. You may also notice that your symptoms have a pattern to them, such as alleviating during the brighter months but then starting again.  

What causes SAD?

We still aren’t exactly sure what causes SAD, however some researchers have suggested that SAD may be caused due the lack of sunlight during the winter. This lack of sunlight might interfere with the production of a hormone called melatonin, otherwise known as the sleep hormone. When it is dark, melatonin is produced; due to the darker days and evenings during winter, it’s thought more melatonin is produced, causing some of the symptoms associated with SAD.  

Are you struggling with SAD? Here’s how you can combat it:

Many people with SAD find that using light therapy lamps during winter can aid with the management of their symptoms. These lamps can be used in the mornings and can improve overall mood and motivation levels. Sunrise alarm clocks can also help you wake up in the morning. These alarm clocks may aid with waking up, as it can stimulate a sunrise. Looking at your sleeping patterns could also be helpful as you could potentially track how much or how little you’re sleeping and make appropriate changes if necessary.  

With the lighter evenings soon upon us, making use of these evenings may also alleviate some of the symptoms – why not try going for a walk in the evenings? You could also invite friends or families and do some outdoor activities with them.  

You can also aim to make your home and work environments as light and bright as possible by using natural light sources. When you’re indoors, why not try and sit by the window and make the most of the natural light? You could also change the curtains in your bedroom to lighter ones instead of black out, which could help you in the mornings. 

Remember, whilst SAD typically occurs during the winter, you can also experience symptoms at other times of the year. Speak to your family and friends and talk to them about what you are struggling with. If you notice your symptoms are not improving, seek help from your GP.