Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the ‘winter blues’, is thought to affect around 2 million people in the UK and Ireland and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe.
The facts about SAD
The precise cause of SAD is not fully understood, but the general consensus is that it is caused by a lack of sunlight, which leads to lower serotonin levels – the hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep.
In the UK and Ireland we are more susceptible as we are situated in the northern hemisphere, where we experience large changes in ultra violet light levels between the summer and winter. In the winter we experience dark, gloomy weather, which can have a profound effect on our body clocks, resulting in an impulse for hibernation. Extended periods of darkness can cause us to eat more and be less energetic, making us feel lethargic and sluggish with physical activity an effort.
Treatments for SAD
Many people think that feeling down and tired is a normal part of winter, but there are natural ways to help ease the effects of SAD.
- Exposure to equatorial sunlight - getting some winter sun
- Bright light therapy
- Intensive vitamin D supplementation
Boosting your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D supplementation is an easy and inexpensive way to help reduce the symptoms of SAD.
90% of our essential vitamin D must come from our skin's unprotected exposure to the sun, however during the winter months (October to March) the sun’s ultraviolet rays are not strong enough for the body to synthesise into vitamin D.
Public Health England now advise everyone to take a daily vitamin D supplement during this period to protect bone and muscle health, but this simple supplementation could also protect you against the effects of SAD.