How to Beat Those Winter Time Blues

Are you often sad during the winter? People have talked about those blues since before the Civil War.

But in the last 30 years, doctors have officially recognized the winter blues as a named, medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The good news is that you can beat it! 

Like millions of Americans, Missy Peters's mood changed with the seasons.

"Generally I'm a happy person," she said. But during the winter, Peters gets the blues, or SAD, which produces symptoms similar to hibernation.

"You look outside, you're not as motivated to do things. You'd kind-of would rather just sit around and eat," Peters said.

Day and Night Mix Up
Decreased sunlight during the winter is the main reason why people develop SAD, because less daylight can disrupt our circadian rythym, also known as our body clock.

Melatonin, a hormone which makes us feel tired, is triggered by darkness and reaches its highest levels at night. People like Peters also have increased melatonin levels during the day.

On the opposite side, the neurotransmitter seratonin, which is triggered by sunlight, makes us feel happy. But people with SAD have low levels of seratonin.

Dr. Wayne Reynolds, with Sentara Gloucester Medical Arts, said the disorder severely affects five percent of Americans. Another 20 percent have a mild case and don't realize it.

"Interestingly, a lot of people put on weight and we've always sort of blamed it on the winter months, people are less active in the winter months," he said.

"But people with SAD have a craving for carbohydrates and tend to overeat during the winter months and end up putting some weight on as a result of this medical condition," he continued.

Women are more often affected than men and the disorder is more prevalent in northern climates. But Reynolds said these people don't need to suffer any longer.

"So many people tend to ignore it and chalk it off as the winter blues," he said. "And what's important is there are options and there are treatments for it."

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Lorie Johnson
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