The “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing, and many people feel quite lethargic throughout the winter months! Generally speaking, it is the long periods of wintry weather and lack of sunlight that contribute to the cases of the disorder. Keeping this in mind, those who want to improve their mood and feel better overall should consider infrared saunas as an effective and holistic way to mitigate the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Many studies have investigated the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called Seasonal Depression, and most of them conclude that it is the change in our exposure to natural sunlight. Seeing less sunlight can result in:
- A disruption to our circadian rhythms (aka our body’s internal clock) affects our sleep cycles
- Less serotonin in our system. Researchers also speak about how depressive symptoms can be correlated with the amount of serotonin in our system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness, and can improve symptoms related to SAD
- Changes in melatonin, a hormone regulated by our circadian rhythm and exposure to natural light. This hormone has been associated with our mood and sleep
Lack of natural light disrupts our circadian rhythm and causes our body to produce less melatonin and serotonin. This affects our sleep cycle causing us to feel tired, our weight, and our mood – which is ultimately SAD.
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Commonly known signs of Seasonal depression are general feelings of sadness and lethargy. Other symptoms include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Withdrawing or isolating from friends and family
- Low mood or feeling depressed over consecutive days
- Less interested in activities you usually enjoy
- Difficulty focusing or performing at work
- Feelings of hopelessness
How to prevent or lessen the effects of SAD?
Preliminary evidence from clinical research is showing that non-pharmaceutical options, such as light therapy may be a plausible treatment for symptoms of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Because of our lifestyles and the time we typically spend indoors for work, it can be difficult to get enough sunlight in the winter months when the days are shorter and darker. Exposing your skin to the sun will boost your Vitamin D levels from UV radiation and simultaneously increase your risk of skin cancer, which is why it should be done in moderation. A simple and effective alternative option is to spend time in a sauna with chromotherapy lighting, like our Clearlight Infrared Sauna. As a result, all the benefits of light exposure are experienced, minus the harmful effects from the sun.
How can an infrared sauna help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Infrared technology helps to gradually warm your body, producing a whole-body hyperthermia type effect which research has shown can be used as a safe antidepressant modality and have lasting therapeutic benefits. Today, most infrared saunas will have built in lights for the additional calming and therapeutic benefits. It’s called chromotherapy, which is the technique of using different colours to restore balance to the body. By mimicking the sun’s natural light, colour therapy can work to improve your mood, and depending on the desired outcome, each colour can be used to elicit a specific change in the body and mind.
Scientists presented research from a small study that demonstrated when used once a day for 15 minutes, infrared saunas helped people experiencing chronic fatigue to increase their energy levels and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
If you or a loved one are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, know that there are effective ways to treat this. The health and wellness benefits of infrared saunas extend far beyond treatment for SAD and will improve many other aspects of your life. Our Clearlight Infrared Sauna couples infrared technology and light therapy together, offering you all the benefits in as little as 30-minutes. Sessions are available 7 days a week and are available for booking through the Myall app today.
Depressive symptoms, like the ones discussed, shouldn’t be ignored — even mild ones associated with SAD. Whilst there are many wellness regimes we can incorporate into our everyday lives, if these symptoms are affecting your everyday life, it’s important to seek help from your General Practitioner.