Cold weather and long winter nights cause us to long for spring and bright sunshine. The “winter blues” is a typical bummer for almost everyone. When more significant problems with the winter season hit us, it is vital to be aware of the clinical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can lead to depression and other potentially dangerous health issues. In this article, certified fitness trainer, health coach, and Winnipeg native Gabriel Patterson discusses how SAD differs from the ordinary winter blues.
SAD can affect anyone, although women are up to four times more likely than men to suffer from SAD. Medical research into SAD is ongoing, and all specific causes are still unknown. It is believed that some contributing factors work in combination with environmental factors; for example, decreased sunlight in winter can directly affect sleep patterns and lead to mental fatigue and depression. Sleep disruption can also trigger imbalanced levels of melatonin, a naturally occurring substance in the body that has an impact on mood and mental wellness. Reduced sunlight has also been linked to decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can also lead to depression.
Because of the link to hours of winter sunlight, SAD is more prevalent in locations further away from the equator where seasonal daylight amounts vary more substantially. In addition to environmental factors, family history of SAD and previous depression or bipolar disorder are indicative risk factors for SAD. Research has shown that SAD recurs regularly in virtually all patients during the fall and winter months and abates typically in the spring and summer.
As opposed to the winter blues, SAD can lead to disabling depression and significant sleep disturbance. Many times the winter blues can be chased away by a sunny day outside or an enjoyable social event. However, SAD can cause people to withdraw from social situations and feel depressed about their environment. Sufferers often are continually exhausted and suffer from diminished cognitive function in addition to physical weakness and diminished immune system function.
If your winter blues become persistent or you think you may have more lasting symptoms, you should see your physician for assistance. There are medications available for chemical imbalances related to SAD. Sometimes doctors also prescribe antidepressant medications for treatment. There are also therapies available for cognitive function, as well as physical therapies involving artificial lighting, that have shown to be effective in treating SAD symptoms.
About Gabriel Patterson
Gabriel Patterson is a Winnipeg native and certified fitness trainer and health coach who advocates a balanced and healthy lifestyle for his clients. As a lifelong athlete, Gabriel developed a deep interest in physiology and advanced training as a competitive swimmer. He has taken his experience as a personal trainer into the business world as the founder of Patterson Training. Gabriel’s passion for an active and productive lifestyle has led him to his mission of supporting and educating his clients as they discover new health and fitness routines. He emphasizes a nutrient-dense diet for his clients as they recover from sports injuries or seek solid fitness foundations and provides complete nutritional planning and coaching as part of his training services. Gabriel has a strong reputation with his clients due to his positive and supportive attitude and his common sense and transparent approach to coaching and guiding every client as an individual.