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Shorter Days May Lead to SAD

Preparing for the Season of SAD

The days are getting shorter, and the sunshine is not as bright.  Fall is here, and winter is quickly approaching – for SAD sufferers, that means it is time to ready our arsenals to combat the bleakness of the dark seasons.  SAD stands for “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” and it describes a depression or malaise that descends during the colder, darker months.  It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population experiences symptoms of SAD.  Women account for around 75% of sufferers.  Psychologists surmise that the phenomenon is caused by the change in sunlight, and is especially pronounced in parts of the country that get the least amount of sunlight during winter.

What Causes SAD?

While it is not crystal clear what causes SAD, researchers believe that the reduced sunlight results in a reduction of serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is believed to regulate many factors of well-being including mood, social behavior, appetite, sleep, memory, and digestion.  Darker days also affect the body’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. More melatonin is released in darkness than in light, which may explain the feeling of fatigue or sluggishness that hits some people during the darker seasons.

Watch the YouTube video from Mayo Clinic on the topic of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Ways to Fight the SADness

Even though Sacramento is not one of the areas that experience a drastic change in seasons, many Northern Californians still live with SAD symptoms, so let’s look at some ways to fight back against the Fall/Winter blahs.

Light Therapy

There are a number of light therapy lamps, or light boxes, available for purchase online.  They emit up to 10,000 lux of light, the intention of which is to mimic bright sunlight.  Turning on a light box each morning for 10 to 20 minutes may help reset your circadian rhythm, thereby having a positive effect on your mood and energy levels.  


When sunlight diminishes, so do our stores of Vitamin D.  A deficiency of Vitamin D can mimic symptoms that are similar to SAD – depression, fatigue, and irritability to name a few.  Talk to your doctor about having your Vitamin D levels checked by a blood test.  There are several good D3 supplements available and your physician can recommend the number of international units you should take.  

Other supplements that may help winter SAD symptoms include Magnesium and B12.  

Focus on Quality Sleep

A solid seven to nine hours of sleep each night is particularly important during winter months when your circadian rhythm is already affected by the changes in sunlight. Take care of your “sleep hygiene” by keeping a regular sleeping/waking schedule, and staying away from the bright screens on your laptop, tablet, or phone while in bed.  Electronics are not completely without merit – with the screen dark, A relaxation or meditation app can help with falling asleep. A white noise machine can reduce noise distractions during the night to help you stay asleep.  To wake, there are alarm clocks that incorporate the concept of resetting the circadian rhythm by issuing a gradually increasing bright light in tandem with a soothing wake-up chime.

Spend Time Outdoors

Although many SAD sufferers may feel more inclined to hibernate on the couch during the cold, dark months, this tactic may be counterproductive.  Bundle up and get outside for a brisk walk.  Do this at lunchtime if possible since that is the brightest part of the day.  When sunlight is limited, staying inside can exacerbate the symptoms of SAD.  

Get Out of Town

Northern Californians have the luxury of being able to drive several hours south to get an increased amount of sunlight.  When the winter drearies really hit in January and February, spending a few days in Los Angeles, San Diego or surrounding areas where there is more warm sunshine may be enough of a recharge to tide a Northern Californian over until Spring. 

If you want to follow the sun even further, consider a cruise.  Depending on the state of the pandemic during the early part of 2021, an easy four-day Carnival cruise to Mexico from Long Beach can provide an economical and effective blast of strong sunshine.

Remember – Spring will Come

The seasons are temporary.  Winter will turn to spring.  Our clocks will move forward, and the days will get longer.  If you are able, embrace the change in seasons – enjoy lighted candles, read a book under a warm blanket, and put up seasonal decorations.  Use the dreary weather as an impetus to clean and organize your home.  

If You Need More Help, Seek it Out

If the seasonal change propels you into full-blown depression, talk with your doctor or reach out to a licensed mental health professional. 

Sacramento Auto Accident Attorney

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog.  I’m Ed Smith, an Auto Accident Attorney in SacramentoI have been an advocate for injured Sacramento residents for close to 40 years.  If you have sustained injuries caused by another’s negligence, it makes good sense to talk with a car accident lawyer.  Reach out to one of our case managers or injury lawyers for free and friendly advice.  Our Sacramento and out-of-state phone numbers, respectively, are (916) 921-6400 and (800) 404-5400.  You may also contact us online.

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