Do you feel happier in spring and summer times? For most people the answer is probably a definite yes. Asking that question in the middle of winter might be a bit harsh, but there is a good reason for it.
According to a new infographic created by NowSourcing, and presented by BestHealthDegrees.com, the winter blues are very much real and Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD can really put a damper on your winter.
The data in the infographic says for 1 in 4 American workers, January is their least happy month. Another 1 in 3 said winter negatively affected their mood in the workplace. But you don’t have to be in the workplace to feel the effects, as 2 million children age 9-17 in the US also suffer from SAD.
For small businesses with few employees, the impact of SAD in their workforce can have some serious consequences in the winter months. Even if employees show up, they won’t be as productive. Knowing what SAD is so you can help your employees or even yourself is important.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Scientists and doctors are not entirely certain as to what causes SAD. The Mayo Clinic defines SAD as a type of depression related to changes in seasons which begins and ends around the same times every year.
Appearing in late fall or early winter, some of the signs and symptoms the Mayo Clinic highlights include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; having low energy; having problems with sleeping and more.
Although the cause has yet to be determined, some of the factors which may come into play include disruption in your circadian rhythm or biological clock and changes in your serotonin and melatonin levels. Living far from the equator as well as family history with SAD or other forms of depression can also be risk factors.
Another cause identified in the infographic is the link between SAD and the activation of ipRGCs (Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells) which signals non-image-forming effects in response to environmental light.
Because ipRGCs regulate your circadian rhythms, pupil reflexes, and mood and energy levels, less daylight in winter months can stop ipRGCs to regulate circadian rhythms.
Proper diagnosis is very important so you can get the right treatment. Consult your doctor or mental health professional if you experience any of the symptoms of SAD.
Using Light and Technology to Prevent and Treat SAD
The good news is today’s digital technology and smart light bulbs can help you prevent and even treat some of the symptoms of SAD.
As soon as you start noticing shorter and darker days in the winter, start using smart light bulbs which mimic sunrise and sunsets. This can help you set your circadian rhythm or biological clock.
Use different light bulbs through out the day which will keep you alert in the morning and block blue lights in the evening to get your ready for bed. Avoid lights altogether when you are asleep. If you have to have light when you sleep, use dim red lights.
Some of the technology you can use to block blue light include color filter apps for your smartphones and PCs. These apps automatically reduce the brightness of your screen and change to warm colors at sunset. Glasses which block blue light also work.
When it comes to nutrition vitamin D is critical. Depending on where you live, it may be almost impossible to produce vitamin D from sunlight during winter months. Taking 800 – 1,000 IU per day of a vitamin D supplement will overcome this deficiency.
Last but not least is light therapy. You can buy a light box, desk lamp and even a visor to create artificial sunlight so it can trigger ipRGCs and resets your circadian rhythm.
Choose light bulbs with 2,500 – 10,000 with short wavelength light producing cool tones which mimic daylight.
Take a look at the rest of the recommendations from the infographic below.