SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Feeling kind of sad today? You are not alone. The lack of sun may be what’s putting a damper on your mood. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short.
“The amount of light that you have in a day as it gets winter gets less and less, and that’s when we start to see people get more and more depressed,” says Dr. Jason Hunziker, a psychiatry professor with the University of Utah.
With the recent end to daylight saving time, the sun’s going down much earlier.
Anny Brooks, who moved here from Europe, says she doesn’t like the switch back and forth, “I would rather have it not change at all because I can enjoy my evening better, especially with the nice weather, if I want to stay out longer.”
If you have SAD (as experts say 10 to 20% of us do) less light exposure can make you sluggish, sleepy, depressed, anxious and socially withdrawn. Cyclist Muj Asdulla says he does not experience that with the time shift, “I don’t change much. I just sleep in an extra hour.” Not surprising, as more women are affected by SAD than men.
“Today I have been tired,” says Dia Osaren, an Xfinity cable and internet salesperson who is quick with a smile. “I literally slept my whole lunch. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
With seasonal affective disorder, reduced sun exposure causes certain people to produce more melatonin, which can lead to feeling blue.
“If those symptoms get bad enough that you’re staying in bed longer and you’re not eating,” says Hunziker, “and it just seems like every day is just blah, you need to get up and go talk to your doctor and get this fixed.”
Remedies include antidepressants and regular exercise (is there anything that doesn’t fix?) . Experts say increasing your Omega 3 intake and making sure your vitamin D level is good should help, too.
If that doesn’t work, light therapy is available where you’re exposed to special mood-enhancing bulbs for 15 to 90 minutes a day. That makes sense, right? If darkness is bringing you down, bright light might just be the thing to perk you back up.