The fact that depression rates go up during the winter is not a new phenomenon, and it’s well-recognized in the medical community. In fact, SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is the type of depression that millions of Americans suffer from during the darker months.
Scientists believe that this depression is due to a dip in serotonin levels in the brain when a person isn’t exposed to sunlight regularly. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is linked to mood.
The Circadian Rhythm
Sunlight is directly responsible for a person’s circadian rhythm. This is the internal clock that helps you get sleepy and fall asleep at night, wake up in the morning, and feel energized during the day.
During the summertime, when the sun is high and bright in the sky, you can keep your circadian rhythm and sunlight-related serotonin levels normal by spending some time each day out in the sun.
Of course, it’s important to protect your skin and be sensible about the amount of time you spend in the sun and the time of day at which you spend it, but 20 minutes a day of sun exposure is a good amount to aim for. Be sure to wear good eye protection. If you are concerned about sun exposure and your skin, consider a supplement such as this one, with your doctor’s consent.
During the fall, winter, and spring in much of the United States, when it is dark more and the sun is lower in the sky, it may be difficult to get enough sun exposure to stave off the winter blues or SAD.
How Can You Fight Sunlight Deficiency in the Winter?
While nothing can replace the benefits of natural sunlight completely, here are some things you can do to fight the effects of sunlight deficiency during the winter or on gloomy days:
- Use full spectrum light bulbs in your home.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Get outside when the sun is out as much as you can.
- Be sure you are not deficient in vitamin D. Your doctor can test you for this and make supplement recommendations.
- Avoid alcohol and sugar as much as possible because they can cause a decrease in mood.
- Make time to get out of the house and office.
- Increase your use of other stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.
- Talk to your doctor if necessary.