Feeling SAD? Head toward the light

For many people, the beauty of fall is mixed with feelings of lethargy, as the days become noticeably shorter, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) begins. When we turn the clocks back on Nov. 5, this should only intensify.

SAD is caused by the lack of daylight in northern climates during winter. It peaks in late January or February, but some people feel it most right about now. In fact, some experience SAD earlier every year. I think this is because they start to anticipate its arrival, and become more sensitive to the changes in daylight each year.

At this time in the season, I see a lot of patients who are oversleeping and experiencing fatigue and cravings for carbohydrates such as sweets, pasta and bread — especially women. These physical symptoms set in first. Then, often starting around the end-of-year holidays, sad mood starts to be a problem as well.

It’s tough to know how much holiday stress plays into worsening symptoms because the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21, is right around that time. Some have suggested that the third week in January is the absolute worst, due to the combination of cumulative environmental light deprivation and psychological factors. Some people feel a post-holiday slump — and by the end of January, those New Year’s resolutions have often been broken. However in large population studies, most patients say February is worst.

Source: Toronto Star: October 31, 2017 for rest of article. Author: Dr Robert Levitan

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