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What you should know about SAD and Winter Blues:
12.07.11

Another name for the winter blues is?


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
The full name for the winter blues is sub-syndromal seasonal affective disorder, a milder version of SAD, but they have common symptoms. It's also known as winter depression.

How many people are affected by the winter blues?

17 per cent
It is estimated that around three per cent of people suffer from severe winter depression, but up to 17 per cent of us experience the winter blues.

The winter blues is most common in:

Women
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, SAD is around three times more common in women than men, and is rare in children and elderly people.

How does SAD differ from normal (non-seasonal) depression?

You sleep more
You crave carbohydrates
You eat more
People who suffer from non-seasonal depression often have difficulty sleeping and lose weight. A craving for sugary foods and carbohydrates is common with SAD.

What is thought to trigger SAD?

Lack of daylight
SAD is thought to be linked to the shorter days and lack of daylight associated with autumn and winter.

Which of the following can help lessen the symptoms of SAD?

Outdoor exercise
Light therapy
A regular sleep pattern
Antidepressants, talking therapy and maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables can also help. People with SAD are usually advised to get outside in the daylight hours as much as possible, even if they don't feel like it.

People with SAD often have raised levels of which hormone?

Melatonin
People with SAD often have raised levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, which, in the winter months, makes them feel more sleepy than usual. However, this returns to normal in the summer months.

Which region of the brain has been associated with SAD?

Hypothalamus
A lack of sunlight is thought to affect the hypothalamus, leading to a hormonal imbalance, although it's not known why it affects some more than others. The hypothalamus controls mood, appetite and sleep.

What is the minimum light intensity needed to treat SAD?

2500 lux
Ordinary domestic lighting, with an intensity of around 200-500 lux, is not strong enough to treat SAD. The light on a bright sunny day can be 100,000 lux.

SAD and the winter blues is more common in northern latitudes

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