S.A.D. during the winter season?
Most of you know that SAD stands for something else besides Standard American Diet. You probably guessed it, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a real thing. It’s a form of depression that occurs during the cold months and is why it’s also called “winter blues” even though there is a less common form that also occurs in the spring and summer.
SAD affects your mood and is thought to be due to shortened periods of light in the winter months. Symptoms are a blue mood, low motivation, lethargy, apathy, crying, being easily discouraged, sleeping more, craving carbs, gaining weight, lower libido, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, trouble making decisions, or thoughts of suicide.
SAD has been known about for 100’s of years, and even way back then, light therapy was recommended. It’s a disorder that can affect just about anyone, even kids, but is most common in younger women for some reason, maybe because their bodies are already more tuned into things like lunar cycles (does every 28 days sound familiar?). That’s just my pure speculation.
The onset of SAD can be in late fall as the daylight hours shorten, and even though December 21 is the day of least light, the disorder continues on through the winter.
So are drugs the answer?
Not usually. Most cases get better in a few days to a few weeks with light therapy. So how do ya’ do that?
Sit in front of a light box that’s at eye level 12-24” away with a light intensity of 10,000 LUX (pretty intense) for about 30 minutes a day. During that time, read or do stuff on your computer, allowing the light to enter your eyes, but don’t stare directly into the light. That would hurt your eyes. Instead, place it a little off to the side. The light unit should also filter out the harmful UV radiation (unlike tanning beds).
Two units that to check out are the Lightphoria 10,000LUX Energy Light Lamp for around $65 (#1 Seller in Light Therapy on Amazon), and the NatureBright Sun Touch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp for around $70 both available on Amazon. In the past, lights for SAD have cost $200-500, so lucky for you that they are now so much cheaper.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition and may be a factor in SAD.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D levels go down in the winter months, and low levels are associated with low mood. To be sure you are not insufficient, you can take 5,000 units daily (5 drops of Metagenics D3 liquid or Metagenics D3 5000) without having to worry about toxicity. And if you’ve had your blood level checked and it’s < 30, you should take 10,000 units daily until April, then go back to 5,000. All Metagenics products are available through my website, DrEpperly.com.
One final thing to remember is that aerobic exercise was found to be as good an antidepressant as antidepressants. So don’t forget to keep working out even during the winter months. The health club I go to just about every day is Charter Fitness seven minutes from my house, and it’s only $10/month! Another similar club is Cardinal Fitness, also $10. There’s about 30 of these clubs around the Chicago area. So, NO EXCUSES!
Go get moving, and move away from the winter blues.
Dr. William Epperly, Fellow American Academy of Family Practice
Fellow American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy
Member of Christian Medical and Dental Society