If you are struggling with depression, fatigue, feeling low and listless particularly during the shorter days and longer nights, you aren’t alone. – in fact it is called SAD – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and in Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME it can be quite prevalent.
The Winter Blues is a Real Thing!
SAD, also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summertime sadness, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.
(Admittedly, before I stumbled across this research on Wikipedia, I only thought it affected us in the winter – you learn something new everyday!).
Seasonal Affective Disorder and Fibromyalgia
Up to 50% of people with fibromyalgia also report symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
According to a study carried out in Sweden, people with fibromyalgia syndrome tend to produce lower levels of melatonin at night, which may explain the problems with sleep at night and the tiredness during the day, as well as the increased rate of seasonal affective disorder.
One thing that can really help you get your sleep patterns under control is using melatonin – which you can buy OTC in North America.
The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, especially the anxiety, depression and tiredness, can make it harder for people with fibromyalgia to cope with their muscle pain.
Modern Living and SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder – Why do we suffer in the Northern Hemisphere?
Historically we only ever worked outdoors; two hundred years ago 75% of the population worked outdoors now less than 10% of the population work in natural outdoor light.
Whilst this is fine in the Summer months when there are longer daylight hours, in the Winter months, people tend to go to work in the dark and go home in the dark and don’t get to enough natural daylight.
This modern way of living has dramatically altered nature’s cues. A modern day no longer starts at the break of dawn and ends at sunset.
Workdays are getting longer and many people face shift work schedules. Additionally, the advent of electric lighting allows social gatherings and personal activities to extend well into the night.
These factors have diminished the body’s natural ability to regulate the body clock and this work/life change has resulted in a dramatic increase in light deficiency symptoms.
Our Circadian Rhythms May Be Out of Whack
A combination of a change in seasonal light, our hectic lifestyles and the periods of darker days and poorer weather, can result in dramatic effects on our circadian rhythms.
As a direct consequence of these environmental and lifestyle factors more people than ever before are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Does daylight impact your health?
Circadian Rhythms in HumansLike many mammals in the natural world, the human body responds to light. As a result our bodies are tuned in to the daylight hours in order to maintain our circadian rhythms.
These rhythms regulate many important bodily functions and if you do not receive the correct daylight signals at the correct time this can have significant affects on your wellbeing.
Circadian rhythms help to regulate and control; food digestion, appetite for food, energy levels, sleep quality and length, and mood. Your Circadian rhythm are effectively your body’s internal clock and if these rhythms are disrupted it can result in you suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and may require ).
In the distant past human’s lived in the outdoors and were exposed to sufficient levels of sunlight the whole year round even in the northern and southern hemispheres.
However, nowadays our lives are mainly carried out indoors due to work pressures, busy lifestyles and change in social behaviours. With the advent of television and now the growth in computer, phone and tablet based entertainment we spend more time than ever indoors and miss out on the light cues our body needs.
Without sufficient levels of morning light our bodies circadian rhythms are not triggered and our body fails to produce the hormones required to feel wide awake.
During the day if we do not receive enough sunlight we feel sluggish, lethargic and low in energy and at night we stay awake long after darkness which can result in lack of sleep, disrupted sleep patterns and mood swings. In summary if we do not receive sunlight at the correct times and in sufficient quantities we can upset our body clock to such a degree that the symptoms of SAD ensue.
Two Great Products for Combating SAD
SAD LAMP – As a result you need to combat these problems by changing your lifestyle as much as possible, provide your body with daylight at the right times or alternatively use artificial sunlight at the correct times using a medically certified SAD Lamp/Sun Lamp.
(When looking for a SAD lamp, anything UNDER 10,000 LUX is considered as ineffective).
I personally believe it is really important to try a SAD lamp before your doctor rushes to put you on antidepressants! As well as increase our vitamin D intake.
Daylight Lightbulbs -The other thing that we have just invested in are ‘daylight lightbulbs‘. We never even heard of these before!
Our dear friend mentioned that they have replaced several of the bulbs in their home (bedroom, kitchen, living room) and it has made a world of difference for them. (In fact, they had to remove the bulb from the bedroom because they found they were extra chatty with their partner at bedtime and were wide awake!).
The light actually seems to be fine for me in regards to light sensitivity. (I just turned it on to double check and it is a cool light). As well, they are power saving and last a very, very, very long time!
Also, these bulbs are not too expensive, either (You can get a 4 pack of Philips Daylight bulbs for just $7.97 from Amazon…).
Daylight bulbs vs normal bulbs – Image courtesy of Urbia Me.
- Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
- Sleep problems, finding it hard to stay awake during the day, but having disturbed nights
- Loss of libido, not interested in physical contact
- Anxiety, inability to cope
- Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people
- Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason
- Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain
It is always important to consult your doctor if you believe you have SAD as it may be another condition. (The above taken from www.sad.org.uk and Wikipedia).
From my personal experience, when I previously travelled to sunny countries, all I know is that the people who lived there were HAPPY (even those living in abject poverty). Real sun provides us with Vitamin D – the Happy Vitamin!
My Top Tips For Combating SAD
I know that this might sound a bit hokey…but the ‘attitude of gratitude’ really can make a huge difference in starting the day off in a better, more positive way.
Even if we are feeling like sh*t, it is finding the good things going on in our lives – whether that is the simple fact that you woke up!
- Take a few minutes upon waking and think of what good stuff you have going on in your life – which could just be a roof over your head and a bed to wake up in!
- Connect with people – reach out and do stuff. Try to get out of the house if you can and if not, invite people over, even if it is to watch movies in your jammies and nibble on some popcorn
- When you have a negative thought pop in, catch it! And turn it around for something you are grateful for.
- Watch something funny on TV or a movie or read something that makes you laugh – laughter really is one of the best meds going!
Here is one of my favourite things to listen to Abraham Hicks. I try to listen to this (or something similar) every morning.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in Fibromyalgia, CFS/ME and of course without having these conditions as well, can be treated – naturally. If you are interested to find out about the product I highly recommend, which I have found to really improve my mood, sleep, fatigue, energy, weight loss and more – click here.