GREENSBORO, N.C. — Winter is here, and with it, shorter days. With less sunlight, you might be finding yourself feeling a little down. Not to worry, though. Consumer Reports has a few tips to help this season feel a little brighter.
"Less sunlight during the day affects how our bodies regulate serotonin and melatonin. And when levels of these hormones are thrown off, it can affect our mood and sleep," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports.
For some people, this disruption can be dramatic and lead to a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Some signs include weight gain, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and other things that make you feel off and not like yourself.
"Five or more of those symptoms are enough for a doctor to diagnose Seasonal Affective Disorder. But many more people have what’s called subsyndromal SAD, where they’re not completely disabled by winter but they’re also not at their best," said Roberts.
Treatment can include medication along with light therapy, which is sitting in front of a light box each morning to trick your eyes and brain into thinking the sun is up. You can find light-therapy boxes over the counter, but Consumer Reports recommends using one only after a doctor’s diagnosis of SAD.
Some conditions that can mimic depression, like bipolar disorder, can actually get worse with treatments for SAD.
Some other ways to fight off the winter blues include getting outside to soak up as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising daily, and pushing yourself to be social. For example, try scheduling lunch with a friend even if you don’t feel like it. Those interactions may help lift your mood.
If your doctor agrees that light therapy is right for you, it’s recommended you choose a light therapy box that produces at least 10,000 lux.