As the summer draws to an end and the days get shorter and the nights get longer, many people begin to suffer from the symptoms of a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons and most typically affects sufferers in fall or winter.
While there are a variety of activities and treatments that can help sufferers of the condition, research has indicated that CBD could also potentially alleviate some of the major symptoms of the condition.
However, before we look at what CBD can do to help, let’s take a closer look at the condition and its symptoms.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that most typically affects sufferers in Fall or Winter when there is far less sunlight during the day.
Those who suffer from SAD will experience mood changes and symptoms that are broadly similar to that of depression although SAD symptoms usually tend to fade upon the arrival of the sunnier Spring weather.
January and February are typically the most difficult months for sufferers of the condition who will usually feel reduced energy and a general feeling of moodiness or irritability, whilst it has also been reported that some people can also experience the condition in summer, but this is far less common.
You might hear some people brush off the condition as nothing more than a spell of the “winter blues” but symptoms can be distressing, frustrating and overwhelming for those who suffer from the condition and may lead to substantial interference in a person’s day to day life.
It is estimated that 5% of American adults currently suffer from the condition with symptoms lasting for as much as 40% of the year. Women are typically more affected by the condition than men.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is said to occur because of a biochemical imbalance in a person's brain which is usually induced by shorter daylight hours and less exposure to sunlight during the fall and winter months.
When seasons change, it is normal for us to experience alterations in our bodies internal biological clocks (otherwise known as circadian rhythm). A reduction in sunlight during Fall and Winter is thought to cause this disruption which then causes those SAD symptoms.
SAD is thought to be more common in people living far from the Equator where there is less daylight in the winter (as a Scotsman, I can truly testify to that!)
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As mentioned, Seasonal Affective Disorder normally affects people in late fall or early winter with symptoms disappearing during the sunnier days of Spring, however it is also possible for some to develop symptoms of the condition in Spring or Summer.
In both instances, symptoms are usually mild at first before increasing in severity as the season progresses.
Listed below are the main symptoms of the condition;
- Feelings of sadness or depression
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
- Change in appetite or weight
- Change in sleep patterns
- Lack of energy or increased fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Lack of concentration
- Thoughts of death and suicide
How to Improve Your Symptoms
There are lots of different things you can try if you are one of the 5% of Americans who suffer from SAD, but here are 2 of the most important lifestyle changes you can try.
Get More Sunshine
Of course, if you live in a country where the sun only shines twice a year like I did growing up, (only a slight under-estimation) it might be more difficult than it sounds, but getting outdoors and grabbing all the sunshine you can get is vital in fighting the symptoms and early onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Even if it's cold, put that winter jacket on and get yourself outside! Walk 10 minutes instead of driving for 1.
The sun is usually at its brightest around midday although there are few things more relaxing than a nice quiet walk on a cold, sunny, winter’s morning. Enjoy the nature, breath and as the late, great comedian George Carlin once said, worship the sun!
It is also sensible to keep your blinds and curtains open to let lots of natural light fill your home and to avoid darkened rooms as much as possible.
Exercise More Often
Exercise has been proven to be one of the best methods for combatting depression and the same applies when we are dealing with SAD.
Exercise and other types of physical activity help to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which are known to increase the symptoms of SAD. In addition, a healthy and fit body will certainly improve your confidence which of course, can lift your mood significantly.
While it seems obvious that we all need to exercise, according to figures released in 2014, a staggering 1 in 4 Americans NEVER exercise. Despite overwhelming evidence of the importance of exercise, approximately 65 million Americans never do.
It is recommended that an adult does at least 150 minutes of exercise per week with 300 minutes the advised level for achieving optimal health but with so many Americans now failing to engage their bodies on a regular basis, it is little wonder that so many people are now reporting various forms of failing health.
Even if you’re feeling tired or too busy, make time, and take a gentle walk. The benefits of walking are both understated and underrated but they could make all the difference to your health and wellbeing.
Could CBD help fight SAD?
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy, but recent research into CBD as a treatment for both anxiety and depression has produced some potentially interesting results.
In 2014, research was published that suggested CBD has great potential as a treatment for depression while a 2015 analysis suggests that CBD is also showing great promise as a treatment for numerous forms of anxiety which is one of the primary symptoms of SAD.
An increasing number of studies have revealed that CBD can potentially help to reduce symptoms associated with a plethora of anxiety disorders.
With CBD known for its powerful impact on the ECS, it can also help to maintain better sleeping patterns, another of the main symptoms of SAD, according to research published in 2017.
The studies suggest that CBD can help to maintain more regular sleeping patterns, but can also aid REM sleep with research indicating that CBD can aid “excessive daytime sleepiness.”
With S.A.D known to cause havoc with sleeping schedules and energy levels, it would seem that CBD could potentially offer an alternative treatment for the many who suffer from this condition.
It seems like every month we are hearing more and more evidence about the potential of cannabis and CBD as a treatment for a number of health issues and while our understanding of SAD is still somewhat limited, there is great potential in CBD as a treatment for this and a number of health conditions.