lack of sunlight and mood

Any truth to the notion that you’re more likely to get sluggish/depressed if you don’t get enough sunlight? If so, why and how?

Boy, you don’t ask for much, do you?

Yes, it does occur, it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder - SAD - an appropriate acronym if I ever heard one.

I read a great book on this called “The Hibernation Response” by Peter Whybrow & Robert Bahr.

Essentially, it has something to do with melatonin production in the body. It’s related to how many day of sunshine occurs & how much sunshine per day.

If you want to know more, maybe you can find the book?

Up north, they make sure work places are well lit in winter. But strangely, it does not affect locals as much as outsiders from the south.

Yes, it does exist. I am one of the unfortunate sufferers of this condition. Personally, I think it has to do with pressure in the atmosphere. My mood changes before the pressure and I can always tell when rain is moving in, even if the skies are sunny. Basically, when it is overcast or raining for long periods of time, depression and lethargy set in. Sleeping and feeling sorry for oneself are common symptoms. When it’s sunny, moods lift to normal(?) levels. Life begins anew. It’s weird, but it is a legitimate medical condition.

This is totally anecdotal and nonscientific, but I believe in the SAD effect 100%. It affects me every winter. I am much more depressed and less productive in the winter months. My mood starts improving when the weather does.

I don’t know if this phenomenon is pysiological or psychological, but I know it is real for me.

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

P.S. Massive amounts of alcohol don’t help-it makes it worse, since alcohol is a depressant. Sucks, but true.

It’s also known as LAD - light attenuation disorder. Believe it or not, people who study such things have found shining a very bright light on the back of the left knee can alleviate the symptoms (depression, lethargy) in many people.

Nick, are you serious? Could you tell me where to find more info on this? Thanks.

More information from my book: An hour of ful-spectrum light (must be full spectrum) every morning will ease or even eliminate symptoms. The authors recommended creating a spring room if possible (lots of bright colors, plants & full spectrum lighting). They also recommended a midwinter trip to a tropical area, which I have tried to do every year since I read the book, and I endorse this too.
Full spectrum flourescent lights are available for purchase.

Nickrz - the significance of that research is that they originally thought that you had to see the light, i.e. vision triggered the melatonin production. This research showed that it was the light on the skin itself that caused the changes. Needless to say, the popular press is even more clueless about scientific research than about life in general and picked up on the odd location, not the reason behind choosing that location.

Many is the time that I have closed my eyes & stood in the sunlight after too many short rainy days & too much work and felt tension and unhappiness melted away by the light.

popokis5 - wow, you have a built-in barometer! Most people have to break a bone to get one of those!

sunbear - probably natural selection - all the real sufferers either moved south or killed themselves. (you’re a bad, bad person, zyada)

Oh, and if you think this book is just another “my own personal rantings disguised as knowledge” pop psychology books, it has cites in it like
“The Use of Plasma Melatonin Levels and Light in the Assessment and Treatment of Chronobiologic Sleep and Mood Disorders” Journal of Neural Transmission

Isuffered with SAD for years, even before it was named. I take melatonin (as directed by an MD-it’s OTC so no perscription is needed) I also bought an alarm clock that, 1/2 hr. before the set time, a halogin lamp begins to glow, slowly getting brighter until when the alarm sounds, it is at full brightness. Since using these, I’m no langer SAD! SADdlly, I suffered through many Christmases before discouvering the cure. I’m not sure, is halogin full, or near fulll spectrum? 'Works for me!


Well, I would like to throw in my “amen” to this theory. One of my high school biology teachers did a study of all her students and found that, when the pressure changes from normal, the majority of students were sleepier and much crankier. I know this is sooo true for me too. I can tell at least a couple of hours before it rains…even if the sun is still shining. :slight_smile:

tipi :slight_smile:

I read the article about the light shining on the back of the knee in the Chicago Tribune about 3-4 months ago. Unfortunately, they want $1.95 per search/retrieve, so unless and until I get access to Little Ed’s account, that avenue is closed.

The research was valid, and it just so happened that the results were so apparently unscientific that the popular press picked up on it.

SAD, or LAD, whatever you wish to call it can be alleviated (relief varies from individual to individual) by exposure to bright, full-spectrum light for a certain period each day (I’ve heard most often one hour). Zyada is correct, they initially thought it was the visible portion of the spectrum affecting the eyes primarily that afforded the relief, but I’m not so sure about the melatonin aspects.

As I understand it, LAD is a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm (body clock) caused by the attenuation of daylight during the winter months, somewhat akin to jet lag and space shuttle passenger’s sleep disorders.

The discovery that it’s the skin, and in particular the skin on the back of the left knee that “reads” these light signals and somehow adjusts our internal clock just shows me how little we really know about that aspect of our physiology.

Living in Chicago, I have been aware of this phenomenon for about 30 years, and the older I get, the worse it gets. The two years I lived near Atlanta, where I was outdoors much of the time playing tennis during the winter just proved to me it was exposure to sunlight (full-spectrum) that prevented what used to be called the mid-winter in Chicago
cabin fever blues. I don’t even want to talk about Christmas.

Isn’t the suicide rate pretty high in Scandinavian countries? Has that correlation been studied?

My personal “amen” in here too. The year I was in St. Petersburg featured the worst emotional swing I’d ever had across a year. Christmastime was really depressing for me, so much so that I really offended a friend (fellow student) by being completely mopey at a party she took great pains to prepare and throw. (I was cheered up immensely by the gift of a 9-vol set of Marx and Engels in Russian, but I digress.) The winter months were ones of lethargy, crankiness, skipping classes and wandering the streets during what daylight there was.

By the time I left in May life hadn’t seemed so good in years. I was sad to go - loved every minute I spent there - but I was back to full attendance at classes, partying like there was no tomorrow, and generally having a blast no matter what I was doing. I honestly didn’t believe too much in SAD until that year but I’m dead certain at the very least that sunshine or lack thereof does have a definite effect.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

As for the Scandinavia/suicide item, more often than not that little nugget’s used to warn every right-thinking American off the “Middle Way”, showing the dangers to individual liberty and happiness that actually having a decent standard of living provided by the government would present. I never hear any solid numbers used.

This isn’t an attack on you, TennHippie :slight_smile: being both of Swedish extraction and a Socialist this particular argument can’t help but rile me every time I hear it.

If I may add my two cents worth, I could never figure out why I occasionally got grouchy over the winter, until I had to opportnunity to fly whilst in a blue funk, and boy let me tell you, once that airplane was a couple of hundred feet into the air and over the pervasive carpet of grey, damp cloud that had been the weather for months it was literally like the sun had gone up. Nothing but blue sky and bright bright sunshine and almost immediately I felt better. Apparantly going sitting under those sun lamps they have at tanning salons has a similar effect.