Sometimes called the “winter blues,” seasonal affective disorder affects millions of people each year. Symptoms may include fatigue, oversleeping, food cravings, seasonal depression and irritability.
Causes of SAD
Modern technology could play a part in SAD. Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, most of people worked outside during the day and slept nine to 10 hours at night. Sunlight kept people awake during the day, and darkness helped them sleep at night. Today, however, most people work indoors, wear sunglasses when they go outside and get six to eight hours of sleep a night. For people who are prone to SAD, this absence of bright light during their waking hours can lead to fatigue and depression.
As it gets dark in the evening, a hormone called melatonin increases in our blood stream. This increase in melatonin leads to a decrease in body temperature and makes us feel tired. When exposed to bright light, our melatonin level decreases. This increases our body temperature and makes us more alert.
If you have trouble waking up in the morning, try watching the sunrise. The sunrise is 10,000 lux (a measurement of the brightness of light); indoor lighting is only 500 lux. When we stay indoors in the winter, our bodies think that it’s night. That makes some people feel tired, irritable, sluggish and…sad.
Because most of us can’t work outdoors (or watch the sunrise daily), successful treatments for SAD may include:
- Light therapy (phototherapy) using indirect bright electric light for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter
- Certain medications
- Behavioral therapy
Light therapy equipment available with or without a prescription
Fairview Home Medical Equipment carries light therapy equipment used to treat SAD. You can buy the equipment with or without a doctor’s prescription. In most cases, medical insurance covers the equipment cost (when prescribed by a physician). And, if you buy the equipment without a prescription, we’ll offer you a 10 percent discount.
To consult with a primary care physician, contact a Fairview Clinic near you.
For a consultation on any sleep-related concerns, contact Fairview Sleep Centers.