For many of us, the winter months can be challenging. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and generally speaking, there's just not much to look forward to. For some people, however, the winter months can be downright debilitating.
If you find yourself feeling tired all the time, having trouble concentrating, or experiencing changes in your appetite or sleep patterns, you may be suffering from a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In this blog post, we'll take a look at SAD and some ways you can cope.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression typically occurring during the fall and winter months. While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it is believed to be related to changes in sun exposure and levels of sunlight. Lack of sunlight can disrupt your body's natural circadian rhythm (i.e., sleep/wake cycle) and lead to feelings of fatigue and sadness.
Changes in the amount of sunlight exposure can also throw off the production of certain hormones, including serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, while melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. When levels of these hormones are disrupted, it can lead to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and hopelessness.
SAD affects an estimated 1 in 20 people in the United States, and women are four times more likely than men to experience it.
Symptoms of SAD
The most common symptom of SAD is feelings of sadness or depression that last for two weeks or longer. Other symptoms may include:
-Changes in appetite (typically increased cravings for carbohydrates)
-Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
-Feelings of fatigue or low energy
Suppose you're experiencing these symptoms regularly during the fall and winter months. In that case, it's essential to see your doctor or mental health provider so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Treatment for SAD
The most common treatment for SAD is light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a special light box for 30 minutes daily. Light boxes emit a bright white light that mimics natural sunlight and helps improve mood. Other treatments for SAD may include medication (antidepressants), psychotherapy, and vitamin D supplements.
How Light Therapy Works
Light therapy works by resetting your body's internal clock and increasing serotonin levels, a mood-boosting chemical in the brain. The light must be bright enough to reduce symptoms but not so bright that it causes discomfort. It's generally recommended that you start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the amount of time you spend under the light. Light therapy is most effective when it's used daily.
Is Light Therapy Safe?
Yes, light therapy is generally safe for most people. However, there are a few side effects that can occur, such as:
- eye strain
If you experience any of these side effects, try moving the lightbox away from you or decreasing the time you spend using it. If the side effects persist, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
When Should I Use Light Therapy?
You should start using light therapy as soon as possible after your symptoms begin. For many people, symptoms start to improve within a week or two of starting treatment. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don't improve after four to six weeks of treatment. You may need to try a different type or intensity of light therapy or another treatment option altogether.
How to Cope with SAD
If you feel down during the colder months, you may suffer from the seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While it can be tempting to hibernate until spring, there are some steps you can take to cope with SAD and make it through the winter.
First, try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Even on cloudy days, spending time outside can help increase your vitamin D levels and improve your mood. If you can't get outdoors much, try sitting near a window during the day. You might also want to invest in a light therapy lamp, which emits a bright light that can mimic the sun's effects on your body.
Exercise is another effective way to boost your mood when you're feeling down. It releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Even a short walk around the block can help.
Diet is also important. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and walnuts, can help improve your mood. Avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks can also help keep your energy levels up.
Finally, make sure to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Spending time with people who make you feel good can help stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Talking about how you're feeling can also help manage your symptoms.
These coping strategies can help you get through the winter months if you're struggling with SAD.
How Does CBD Benefit Mental Wellness?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis plants. Unlike its sister compound, THC, CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects. This means you won't experience the "high" commonly associated marijuana use. Instead, CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates functions like sleep, appetite, pain, and mood.
Some studies suggest that CBD may help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. It's thought that CBD works by reducing inflammation in the brain and helping to balance out neurotransmitter levels. This may explain why some people say they feel more relaxed after taking CBD.
CBD and Serotonin Levels
CBD oil works by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system. This system helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and pain. When CBD oil is used to help relieve SAD, it helps to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in happiness and well-being. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.
CBD is a natural alternative to prescription drugs for treating SAD. Unlike prescription drugs, CBD has very few side effects. The most common side effect of CBD oil is drowsiness. Other possible side effects include dry mouth, lightheadedness, and diarrhea.
Does CBD Help With SAD?
There is currently no cure for seasonal affective disorder, but there are treatments that can help to lessen your symptoms.
While research on the efficacy of CBD oil for seasonal affective disorder is still relatively limited, some studies suggest that it may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. One small study found that nearly 70% of participants who took CBD felt less anxious and more well-rested after just one week. Another study found that CBD was effective in reducing depressive symptoms in rats.
If you're considering trying CBD oil for your seasonal affective disorder, it's essential to talk to your doctor first. They can help you determine if it's right for you and advise you on the best dosage to take.
How to Use CBD Oil for SAD
If you're interested in using CBD oil to treat your SAD, there are a few different ways to use it. You can take it orally by mouth in the form of capsules, gummies, or tinctures. You can add it to your food or drink or take it sublingually (under the tongue) for quick absorption. For the fastest absorption rate, you can use it topically in the form of lotions or oils.
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression typically occurring during the fall and winter months. Suppose you're experiencing symptoms like fatigue, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or difficulty concentrating. In that case, it's essential to see your doctor or mental health provider so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition. Seasonal affective disorder is highly manageable with proper treatment and should not prevent you from enjoying the winter months.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with SAD, some effective treatments include light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and spending time outside daily. Recent studies have also shown that CBD can effectively treat SAD. CBD is thought to work by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates mood and sleep.
NCBI: Cannabidiol (CBD) in the Self-Treatment of Depression-Exploratory Study and a NCBI: New Phenomenon of Concern for Psychiatrists
Pubmed NCBI: Prohedonic Effect of Cannabidiol in a Rat Model of Depression