Why Winter Makes You SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Explained
Winter is finally over and it's time to pack away the wooly layers and wave goodbye to winter blues. It's fair to say that people tend to be far more cheery and happy during the summer time when the weather is good rather than the gray and dreary months of winter but can the seasons are really affects our mood and behavior? There is a small subset of the population who do suffer during the winter months from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is suitably shortened to the term SAD. This is basically recognized as the beginning or the worsening of the symptoms of depression which occurs with the changing of the seasons typically the winter or autumn months. Exposure to daylight is thought to be one of the main culprits behind this disorder with people typically seeing reduced daylight hours during the winter months So the human body has eyes which it uses to detect light changes. Variations and light levels are then communicated to the brain which in part uses this information to regulate our internal body clock. Our internal body clock is basically a complex dance of chemicals that's happening in your brain and these chemicals influence things like mood, appetite and sleep. So you can kind of see where I'm going with this.
If light can influence this system then seasonal variations in light levels will cause changes in how the system operates. More specifically this is thought to affect the levels of two hormones one called serotonin which affects mood and the other called melatonin which helps regulate sleep Studies have found that when people are exposed to bright light early in the morning their production of melatonin occurs earlier in the evening. This means it's easier for them to fall asleep at the correct time As the seasons change our bodies need to learn to advance our production of melatonin as sunrise occurs later and later. This is called melatonin phase advancement One idea is that people with irregularly long body clock cycles find it more difficult to adjust to these seasonal changes.
This leads to symptoms such as low mood fatigue all of which are commonly associated with SAD. It's thought that this disorder is a biochemical evolutionary hangover from our mammalian ancestors you typically hibernated during the winter months but enough with the winter doom-and-gloom because summer is finally here so get outside and take advantage of that sunny weather. But if comes September the idea of the looming winter months is getting you down then you can always just go and live in Yuma Arizona which had over 90% sunlight during its daylight hours is the world's sunniest place.
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