CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sunday November 5, marks the end of Daylight Saving Time – when we turn the clocks ‘back’ one hour.
According to Scott Bea, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic, when it gets darker outside sooner, it can impact our likelihood of developing seasonal affective disorder, or ‘SAD.’
And it turns out that where a person lives can have an impact on how likely they are to develop SAD.
“Of course we know the people in Florida aren’t going to suffer quite as much,” said Dr. Bea. “Research shows that the rate of seasonal affective disorder down there is about 1.4 percent, but if you get up to New Hampshire, it’s about 9.7 percent. So where you exist in relation to the equator makes a difference.”
Dr. Bea said that ‘SAD’ is marked by feelings of sleepiness, withdrawal, and even irritability.
Research has shown that women tend to suffer from ‘SAD’ about four times as much as men do, but when men develop symptoms, they tend to be more severe.
In addition to longer periods of darkness, Dr. Bea said the grayness of winter impacts a lot of people too.
About four percent of folks will experience ‘SAD’ during the winter, while another ten percent will get ‘winter blues.’
Dr. Bea said light therapy works for many people. He suggests getting a light-therapy lamp, sitting in front of it for about 30 minutes every day, ideally in the morning.
Starting light therapy as early as October and keeping it going through the spring will provide the most benefit.
And, if nothing else, Dr. Bea said just getting outdoors more often can help too.
“What people do is they stay indoors and so they don’t get ordinary light exposure,” said Dr. Bea. “One of the problems is we’re not outside enough, even on a cloudy day, if you’re outside for thirty minutes in the morning, you’re going to get enough light exposure and that seems to make a difference.”
Dr. Bea also said creating social obligations - meeting up with other people or perhaps taking up an exercise program - can be beneficial for our mental health during the colder months.