Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that occurs when seasons change, meaning it happens at about the same time each year to those who have been diagnosed. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD most commonly begins in the late fall and lasts through the winter months. Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, there are certain factors that seem to lead to its onset, most commonly a change in your biological clock, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm, and a lack of light during the day.
The National Sleep Foundation describes the circadian rhythm as “basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” Also known as the sleep/wake cycle, many people find that they have the most energy at the same time each day, and also feel most tired at the same time each day. These times differ depending on the person.
Your circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, but many also say that levels of light also play a factor. Because of this, daylight savings time is often thought to be a cause of SAD. Other experts disagree, saying it’s important to remember that changing the clocks doesn’t change the amount of sunlight hours in the day. It just changes when those hours occur. If we didn’t change the clocks in Alberta, the sun would rise far later, leaving the mornings in darkness. Right now the sun is rising at about 8:30 a.m., and is setting at about 4:30 p.m. Without daylight savings time, the sun would sun would rise at 9:30 a.m. and set at 5:30 p.m., which really wouldn’t make much of a difference to those affected with SAD.
But most definitely, the overall reduction in sunlight during the winter months can be a cause of SAD. In fact, rates of seasonal affective disorder are higher in more northerly areas where daylight hours drop dramatically during the winter. Additional reasons SAD may occur include a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, and an imbalance of melatonin, which is vital for regular sleep patterns and a stable mood.
The Sign and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD’s symptoms are very similar to those of a major episode of depression, but, thankfully, these signs tend to disappear when the biological clock is reinstated back to its normal state. When SAD is at it’s worst, though, it’s disruptive and debilitating. The major symptom is a sad and hopeless feeling that is present for the entirety of most days and that lasts longer than two weeks.
Additional symptoms include:
- Sleep difficulties, including sleeping too much or too little, and disrupted sleep, leading to fatigue
- Having a hard time concentrating and performing at difficult tasks
- Irritability and an ill temper
- A loss of interest in favourite activities
- Low self-esteem and a pessimistic outlook
How Weighted Blankets Can Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Although Hippo Hug weighted blankets can’t create more sunlight (we wish we could), they are very effective for assisting in achieving a good night’s worth of restorative sleep. Proper rest is essential for increasing the ability to concentrate, having an improved mood, and the ability to take part in and be present for the things that really matter in life. All of this can help reduce the intensity of some of seasonal affective disorder’s most debilitating symptoms.
Weighted blankets work by applying what is known as deep pressure touch stimulation. Those who enjoy the feeling of a warm hug or a massage, and who enjoy sleeping with heavy blankets already, are the most obvious good candidates for a weighted blanket. But since we know that a weighted blanket is an investment, we encourage those who are not sure if one will work for them to take part in our Try Before You Buy program. We send out our trial blankets with a washable cover so that you don’t have to worry about snuggling with your favourite pet at night.
For those with seasonal affective disorder, studies have shown that the constant, even, gentle pressure provided by a weighted blanket encourages the production of serotonin, which assists in decreasing heart rates and reducing blood pressure. As those with SAD have decreased amounts of serotonin in their systems, this is a huge benefit and a crucial ingredient in the recipe for good rest. Another component is the ability of a weighted blanket to increase the production of melatonin, which is known to promote a good night’s sleep and ease dramatic mood swings.
Light Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
A non-medicinal treatment for SAD that may be able to provide some relief is the use of a light therapy box. These mimic outdoor light, but should have low UV emissions. Typically, light boxes should be used first thing in the morning for about 20 to 30 minutes.
We do recommend speaking with your doctor if you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder for their input and advice. They may suggest additional treatments such as improving your diet, getting lots of exercise, partaking in psychotherapy, and potentially prescribe medication.
Why A Hippo Hug Weighted Blanket is Better Than the Rest
The dedicated staff at Hippo Hug can tailor your weighted blanket just for you, or you may choose from our large stock of ready-to-sell blankets. We are well-trained to ask the right questions to ensure your blanket is sized and weighted properly. We know that one size doesn’t fit all, but you can start by browsing our most popular blankets to get an idea of what we can offer. And to see what others are saying about our blankets, check out these testimonials.