When you think of winter, what do you think about? Frost on the ground in the mornings? Wrapping up warm to leave the house? Snow? The drop in temperature might be the first thing that comes to mind for most people, but the impending months of feeling low is the reality for some.
It’s not the most positive sounding disorder, but SAD syndrome is very real, and is how the changes in seasons can affect our wellbeing.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can affect one’s mental health in both summer and winter months, although it is more commonly suffered during winter.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Persistently low mood
- Feeling lethargic
- Loss of interest in normal everyday routine
- Sleeping for longer than normal
- Finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Feeling despair, guilt or worthless
- Craving carbohydrates and weight gain
For some people, these symptoms affect their daily life and ability to function like usual, which can be extremely debilitating.
There is no one, clear answer as to what causes SAD syndrome, but rather several contributing factors that are commonly found. The charity MIND outlines them as such:
The effects of light
There are messages sent to a part of your brain depending on the light that hits the back of your eye. This section of the brain controls hunger, temperature, sleep, sex drive and mood. When the light is changed (either to not enough or too much), these functions receiving messages can be altered, slowed down and even stop. Some people need more light than others, meaning they might be more likely to suffer with SAD during winter.
Changes to body clock (Circadian rhythm)
As we well know, the hours of daylight affect the part of the brain that sets your body clock. Some research believes that the part of the brain in people experiencing SAD is not working in the same way, due to their disrupted Circadian Rhythm. When the body clock slows down, tiredness and depression can come hand in hand.
Change in melatonin levels
When it is dark, our brain produces melatonin, a key hormone in readying ourselves for sleep. Some people with SAD appear to produce much higher levels of melatonin during winter, undoubtedly due to the huge change in natural sunlight available during the day. If you work long hours in a poorly lit space, you are very unlikely to spend much time in natural sunlight during winter, thereby further impacting melatonin levels. This reduction in sunlight can lower the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
Everyone feels slightly different in different temperatures- for example, some people love the heat of a blazing sunshine, while others can think of nothing worse. By feeling uncomfortable in different temperatures (whether it’s heat or cold), this constant sense of discomfort could contribute to developing or worsening existing depression.
When researching self help tips for coping with SAD syndrome, the no.1 tip on most sites mention the importance of natural sunlight, and making as much time as possible for being outdoors. ‘HelpGuide’ states, “Get as much natural sunlight as possible- it’s free! Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun… Sunlight, even in the small doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood”.
The key statement that stands out to us in all of these websites’ advice sections is that we should get out into sunlight, “even in the small doses that winter allows”, that even though there’s less light than usual, we should still try to get out into it. That can be very difficult and problematic for many people, especially while Covid infections are still high and many vulnerable people still need to shelter. This is where RAY Lighting may be able to have a genuine impact on the lives of those that struggle with SAD.
You may know that RAY Lighting is one of the closest artificial light sources to natural sunlight, with a CRI of 97+ in our products (the sun is CRI 100, and “most LED lights produce a score of about 80 to 90”). Unlike most older LED lights, RAY Lighting is Flicker Free, with BlueBalance® Technology- making it a healthy light source as it is Circadian friendly by being so similar to natural sunlight.
We have a whole host of products that are suitable for various lighting states in the home. We have GU10 and MR16CC retrofit bulbs that can be placed easily into pre-existing fittings, as well as recessed and surface mount spotlights, and engines. Recently we have released the news of our new ‘Shoal’ light (the smallest and thinnest recessed light available on the market) that will be listed for sale via our website in the coming weeks, but most excitingly we are introducing the wireless RAY Lamps for 2022! These lamps are fully dimmable with touch sensitive on/off switch and dimming settings, and by far the easiest RAY product to introduce into your home with ease and speed.
If you are interested in trying RAY Lighting in your home, you can find our full range of products here.