Do you get a little sadder in the winter, when darkness falls early and the sun is hidden in the clouds? If so, you're not alone. Seasonal changes cause more than 25 percent of the population to get the "winter blues" - technically known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The symptoms include increased cravings for sweets and carbohydrates, longer sleep patterns, lethargy, fatigue, irritability, weight gain, insomnia, lowered motivation, and decreased sociability. In some cases, the long dark winter can even bring on full-blown clinical depression.
But there are several ways to prevent and treat this common condition:
- The best way to conquer SAD is to spend time outside in bright, natural sunlight. It's especially good to go out and play in the snow. There is a lower incidence of SAD in regions that get regular amounts of snow, probably because the snow reflects light.
- Phototherapy can also help lift your spirits in the winter. It involves exposing yourself to a light box that approximates the spectrum of daylight for 30 minutes to two hours a day.
- Most important, be sure to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. In clinical trials, vitamin D has been shown to relieve depression more effectively than broad-spectrum light exposure. In fact, in one study that compared vitamin D supplementation with the daily use of a light box for two hours, the symptoms of depression in the vitamin D group were resolved completely. Meanwhile, the phototherapy group saw no significant improvement.
If you're not able to spend time in the sun during the winter, you will need a good bit more vitamin D than the government's recommended daily allowance of 400 IU. Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council suggests 5,000 IU per day for adults during the winter months, and 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day for children. I don't know of any multivitamins that contain this much vitamin D, but Carlson's makes a convenient 2,000 IU soft gel that you can find online and in many health food stores
By being proactive, you can fight back against seasonal depression and enjoy winter... and the holidays... just like you did when you were young
You can also purchase full spectrum light bulbs and put them at home or work where you spend the most time under a light. Purchase these full spectrum light bulbs here