Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you are feeling down right now, it may not be because you are unhappy with your life. Every year thousands of Americans (and people from around the world) suffer from the winter blues, because of lower levels of sunlight during the Fall and Winter months. This real condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as SAD. What a great name right? Overcast days greatly reduce the amount of light that hits your body and eyes. Lux is a measurement of illuminance according to international standards. A bright, sunny day will expose you to 50,000 lux or more, while an overcast day can omit as low 1,000 to 2,000 Lux! The clouds and bad weather are not the only reason for lower levels of sunlight exposure, the days are much shorter, in some cases less than 9 hours a day of daylight is possible. All of this adds up to much lower levels of sunlight over extended periods of sunlight. Talk about depressing!
You may be asking “why is sunlight important?” Sunlight stimulates the retina’s cells, which in turn stimulates cells in the hypothalamus. This part of the brain controls your circadian rhythm which is your internal clock. The less stimulation that your hypothalamus gets the less likely you are to have a normal night’s sleep, either from difficulty falling asleep or tossing and turning throughout the night. Here are some of the most common symptoms of SAD:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Heavy feeling in limbs
- Sleeplessness, insomnia or oversleeping
- Appetite changes (craving for foods high in sugar)
- Weight gain
Now don’t run off to the doctor and ask for a magic pill to fix SAD which may cause even more problems. There are several natural remedies that I want to share with you that will work better than any pill can. The first thing you can do is get as much natural light as possible, especially from the hours of 6:30 Am to 8:30 AM. You can sit or walk outside or sit by a brightly lit window. It is best to do this daily or as close to daily as possible.
You could also eat more complex carbohydrates (natural) such as fruit, vegetables and healthy cereal, and limit eating extra simple sugar carbohydrates (unnatural) such as candy, soda or chocolate. You may crave them, but this is just a quick fix and will make you less able to overcome SAD in the long run, by throwing your body even further out of whack. The best thing to do is to eat healthy all the time, even when it seems like a quick fix will give you energy, you will end up paying for it in the long run.
It is also advisable to limit consumption of both caffeine and alcohol. You can have some but it is not good to make it a habit to have a few cups of coffee a day or a few alcoholic drinks in the evening to fall asleep. Your body will become more and more dependent on caffeine and alcohol may help you fall asleep but it really affects your sleep patterns in a very bad way.
Lastly, if you want to help eliminate SAD get outdoors during the day and exercise, whether it is walking, jogging or running any time spent outdoors will greatly help. Not only does getting your body moving help, but even over cast days will still expose you to more natural sunlight than you will get indoors. Natural sunlight has proven to be more effective than regular daylight especially in the morning. So get outdoors and soak up any sun you can.
I hope you found this information helpful.
To your health!