Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, also known as winter depression is an affective, or mood disorder, a syndrome typically used to describe a recurrent, seasonal pattern of depressive episodes
Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.
Seasonal mood variations are believed to be related mostly to daylight, not temperature.
The etiology of SAD is not completely understood. A combination of physiologic, psychologic, genetic and environmental factors likely plays a role. Circadian phase delay, retinal subsensitivity to light, altered neurotransmitter release (e.g., serotonin, melatonin, dopamine), hypovitaminosis D and genetic variations in clock, monoamine and retinal photopigment genes have all been proposed mechanisms underlying the etiology of SAD.
What to do
- Get bright daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least a half-hour or more each day. This will “anchor” your circadian rhythm and make it less prone to drifting if you’re exposed to light later in the evening.
- Then, in the evening, put on blue-blocking glasses and/or dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength (this includes LED light bulbs, TVs and most electronic gadgets.
- When it’s time to go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is pitch black. I recommend installing blackout shades for this purpose or using a sleep mask. Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect, so if you have to have an LED clock, opt for one with a red display, and set it on its dimmest setting. You can also try a dawn-simulating clock that imitates a natural sunrise in the morning.
- Consume high quality animal-based omega-3 fats – Your brain consists of about 60 percent fat; DHA specifically, so you need a constant input of essential omega-3 fats for your brain to work properly. The most beneficial source I know of is krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
- Exercise – In addition to a large number of other health benefits, physical exercise is one of the most potent strategies you can employ to prevent and treat all kinds of depression.
- Abstain from sugar – Sugar (and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has a very detrimental impact on your brain function