Seasonal Depression May Be Behind Those "Winter Blues"

Seasonal Depression May Be Behind Those

LANSING - Michigan winters can be beautiful, but for some, the shortened days can leave them feeling pretty blue.

"It kind of more happens going into the fall, then progressively gets worse as mid-winter comes," said Travis Oliver, who has less energy and motivation during the winter months.

There may be a reason why Oliver feels this way though. When it is dark outside, your body will produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep.

Psychologist Dr. Michael Rogell said that it is common for people who live in northern parts of the world to get into a winter slump because daylight hours are limited.

For some, it may just be a case of the "winter blues", but for others, they may actually have a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Those suffering from SAD, which according to the American Academy of Family Physicians is about five percent of Americans annually, have prolonged symptoms of depression during specific times of the year, typically going into the fall and continuing throughout the winter months. The treatment for this can be simple though.

"Exercise is good, and being out in the sun as much as they can when the sun is out," are two things that Dr. Rogell suggests.

Another treatment option is light therapy, which involves sitting under a special lamp that a person can purchase for their home, office etc.

Dr. Rogell said that a study showed full-spectrum lights, if used properly, can produce results quicker than traditional antidepressant medication in patients suffering from SAD.

He explained that proper use of light therapy is to use the light first thing in the morning for 15 to 30 minutes to shut down the production of melatonin. You don't have to be staring directly into the lights, just having it shining on whatever your looking at will be enough.

There are also three things to consider when purchasing a light:
1. LUX, which is a mearsure of light intensity, should be rated at 10,000 LUX.
2. Color Rendering Index (CRI), which is a measure of light quality, should be 90 or above.
3. Degrees Kelvin, which measures the color of the light, should be between 5,000K and 6,000K.

It is also important that ultraviolet light is filtered out because it could cause a sunburn or skin cancer.

If you think you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit your family doctor or a psychiatrist.

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