5 Things You Didn't Know About SAD and Sleep
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an illness that can cause mood swings, depression and severe fatigue. It is categorized as a mental illness similar to depression or bipolar disorder, and is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Here are five ways in which sleep patterns can be affected by SAD.
SAD is commonly confused with the Winter Blues, which is a loss of energy due to falling temperatures, but can easily be cured with physical activity. SAD causes drowsiness due to the decreasing amount of daylight. The shorter, darker days of winter increase the body’s production of melatonin, which regulates sleep and depression.
People can develop SAD in either summer or winter seasons, but will display opposite symptoms. Those who experience SAD in the winter will have less energy and will sleep a lot more. Those who are affected by SAD in the summer will experience an energizing effect, which may cause insomnia.
Experts agree that SAD is a disorder caused by the biological effects due to changing amounts of sunlight. Although not fully understood, some experts believe that the changes in sunlight trigger the hypothalamus. This is the center of the brain that controls mood, appetite and sleep, and affects sleep by regulating melatonin.
SAD is believed to be caused in part by shifts to our circadian rhythm, which manages our body’s sleep-wake cycle throughout the day. As a result, excessive napping, going to bed or waking up at unusual hours, and restless sleeping, even for longer hours, will cause a person to feel groggy.
Changes in your sleep pattern from SAD may be caused by the same changes that signal hibernation in animals. Whereas circadian rhythms are daily cycles, circannual rhythms are yearly - triggered by changes in light levels, rain, and the position of the sun in the sky. These patterns explain why animals hunt and gather food in the spring and summer, then eat and hibernate in the winter.