AeroChick vs Winter: The Re-match
Heya! I am not sure if a discussion of depression belongs here in the PT forum, but in this case it has a nutritional cause and so I thought might be relevant. If the mod-gods disagree, feel free to move this.
Last year was my first bout with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically, it's depression and lethargy brought on by a lack of sunlight during the winter months. My mother and sister have suffered with it for years, but last year was my first encounter. Let me tell you - it completely sucks. I couldn't get out of bed in the morning to save myself - I moved my work shift one hour later and still couldn't make it on time. I was so tired I was basically sleepwalking through my life; there are large portions of time between February and April last year that I simply have no memory of anything I did. I finally clued in around April and talked to my doctor. She recommended some vitamin and light therapy, which together with my own research, allowed me to put together an action plan to attack the SAD head-on this year. So far, I've been fairly sucessful, so I thought I'd share my findings for anyone else who might have the same issues.
SAD can be brought on by a variety of factors, but often is a case of a lack of Vitamin D. As I understand it, your body makes Vitamin D when it is exposed to sunshine, so a reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter can result in a deficiency of Vitamin D. This turned out to be the problem in my case: within two weeks of beginning to supplement Vitamin D and take light therapy last spring, I saw a noticeable improvement in my mood and energy level.
This year, I've been managing my energy levels fairly well with a program designed to address the vitamin and light deficiency issues. My program looks like this:
Vitamin Supplements: I take 2000IU of Vitamin D every day for about a month, then drop it down to 1000IU a day for a month. I was advised to do this cyclic loading by my Naturopath to build up my reserves - apparently, your Vitamin D stores last in your body for about two months, so you need to bump your intake to build up your levels. I am aware that the 2000IU exceeds the recommended dosage, but it works for me so far and I haven't seen any ill effects. I also take a B-complex daily to ensure I don't have any anemia issues that might contribute to lethargy.
Dawn Simulation: I got myself a nifty dawn simulation clock from Biobrite (it's the clock-radio one on this page). Basically, I set the alarm for the time I need to get up, and about half an hour before then, the light starts slowly brightening the room. By the time the radio turns on, my room is fully bright. I've also set the programmable thermostat in my house to warm up a few extra degrees at the time I need to get up. This works great for me - one of the things I hate the most is having to get up in the dark and cold, so waking up to a brightly lit and warm room makes it much easier to face the day.
Light Therapy: Unfortunately, I don't get much natural daylight in the winter months at all - I am usually at work by the time the sun shows itself, my office has no exterior windows, and it's starting to get dark by the time I leave for home (curse those short Canadian winter days!), so I have to get extra light artificially. I have installed a full-spectrum CFL bulb in my bathroom - it looks as bright as an operating room in there, but at least I get about 20 minutes of full spectrum light while I'm doing my hair and makeup every morning. Another strategy is to go to the local tanning salon and spend 10-12 minutes in a tanning bed once a week - it's not enough exposure to get any colour (and hopefully not enough to do any major skin damage) but certainly helps to get my dose of UV. I haven't been able to do that so far this winter due to schedule, but I am hoping to get back in the habit in the next few weeks - I can duck out on my lunch hour and go get my light treatments at a tanning place near my work. Kinda makes me feel like Superman recharging with sunlight, but hey - whatever works!
So, we'll see if this protocol keeps me sane and awake through until spring. Apparently, your Vitamin D stores are lowest in late spring which is probably why I was suffering so much last spring, so hopefully the work I am doing now will pay off in the next few months. I'll keep you posted!