Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is an extreme case of winter blues that millions of Americans suffer from, including older teens and young adults.
As the seasons change, so does the mood of people with SAD. It's characterized by irritability, extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, increased appetite (especially for carbohydrates), weight gain, a decreased sex drive, oversleeping during the few available daylight hours and yet not feeling refreshed upon waking up, and even suicidal thoughts.
So, what is so "SAD" about winter? Consider sunlight to be one of your most natural anti-depressants. Overcast winter days cause little sunlight to fall on your retina. For starters, this causes your serotonin levels to drop lower than we want them. Next, that scarce depression-fighting sunlight can't efficiently reach the region of your brain that controls your moods, feelings, sleep patterns, and even sex drive. Add a stressful event or a winter cold to the picture and you've got a recipe for SAD susceptibility!
SAD Ends with "D"
What's the best treatment for SAD? Light therapy or a ticket to the Caribbean Islands. Studies investigating SAD reveal noteworthy patterns in the link between vitamin D status and SAD symptoms: vitamin D levels tend to lag in winter months when skin exposure to sunlight is reduced; depressed adults have lower vitamin D levels; vitamin D is used by the central nervous system to produce serotonin and dopamine; vitamin D is found in the region of the brain involving circadian cycles. Clearly, tons of research points to vitamin D.
For days when it's difficult to get adequate sun exposure (i.e. winter days), the Endocrine society recommends 1,500-2,000 IU/day of of vitamin D. One EnergyFirst vitamin D capsule contains half the daily requirement.
Small changes can make a big difference. Spend more time near a window if you work indoors. Keep your blinds or window curtains wide open and make time to swim in the natural light. Make it a goal to go outside daily this winter.