In addition to disrupted sleep cycles that may have occurred earlier this month as a result of Daylight Savings Time coming to an end, the decreased amount of daylight may also be wreaking havoc and having a negative impact on some people.
Turning the clocks back an hour and losing that extra bit of late afternoon/early evening daylight — which is during waking hours for most people — at a time of year when the northern hemisphere naturally experiences fewer hours of daylight, can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to mayoclinic.org, SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, beginning and ending at about the same time each year.
“If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” the site notes.
So if you find yourself feeling down, it may not only be disrupted sleep cycles or wayward hormones causing your blue mood, but lack of sunlight.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include depression, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, low energy, changes in appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty with sleeping or concentrating, and feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty.
To help ease the symptoms of SAD, mayoclinic.org recommends light therapy, psychotherapy, medications, and establishing a mind-body connection.
Light therapy, or phototherapy — you sit near a special light box, exposing yourself to bright light within the first hour of waking each day — mimics natural outdoor light, causing a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy generally has a positive effect within a few days to a few weeks, and appears to be effective for most people in relieving symptoms of SAD.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy — also known as cognitive behavioral therapy — is another option to treat SAD. This type of therapy helps to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse, and helps you to learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.
For some people, especially those with severe symptoms, antidepressants may be needed to combat SAD, though it may take several weeks to realize the full benefit of this treatment, and experimenting with different types of medication may be necessary to find the specific antidepressant that works the best for you and has the fewest side effects.
Developing a strong mind-body connection is a natural, homeopathic method to help cope with SAD. This may include implementing relaxation techniques, practicing yoga or tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, and music or art therapy.
Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine which treatment is right for you to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. And take heart: the shortest day of the year is just around the corner, after which begins the slow but steady climb toward the warmer days of spring and more hours of sunlight.