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An Introduction to SAD & Sleep

It seems most of us find it a little easier to rise and shine in the summer months, with the sun peeping through the blinds in the early morning, making us feel revitalised and energetic. However we all have to face the fact that the summer months are drawing to a close and the dark mornings are looming ever closer.

Many people find it difficult to rise for work in the pitch black mornings during autumn and winter.  Increasing numbers feel anxious and depressed, even experiencing changing sleeping patterns during these months. The matter is not helped by the sound of ear-splitting alarm clocks awaking you from your sleep in what seems like the dead of night.

While many people experience some form of the ‘winter blues,’ such as increased eating or changes in sleeping habits caused by fewer hours of daylight, others suffer from a more serious, incapacitating condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

SAD is a form of winter depression, which according to the SAD Association (SADA), affects an estimated 7% of the UK population. As many as half a million people are believed to suffer from the condition which is most rampant in December, January and February. It can be an extremely disabling condition that limits the functionality of its sufferers who often require constant medical treatment.

The Cause

SADA believe the condition is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus as a result of shorter days as well as lack of bright light in the autumn and winter months. According to leading light therapy expert, Lumie, the brain is stimulated by light that enters the eyes to control our daily rhythms by hormone production. For people with the condition the low levels of light in winter are not sufficient enough to regulate hormone levels. This contributes towards waking and sleeping patterns, as well as energetic or depressed feelings.

Symptoms

Classic symptoms include feeling down and depressed, over eating, disrupted sleep, fatigue, aching limbs or feelings of heaviness, irritability or feeling tense, restlessness and difficulty concentrating. Other symptoms include stomach problems, sweating, cramps or palpitations.

Treatment

Antidepressant drugs are not believed to be helpful in combating the symptoms of SAD, as they tend to contribute towards feelings of lethargy and drowsiness. However, light therapy has proved to be effective in as many as 85% of diagnosed SAD cases.

Light therapy is exposure to very bright light for up to 4 hours per day. Lumie believe that in order to effectively combat the symptoms of SAD most sufferers need light to their eyes as bright as a spring morning on a clear day, for at least 30 minutes a day. The light must be at least 2,500 lux, which is an estimated five times brighter than a well-lit office. Therefore the light omitted from ordinary light bulbs is not strong enough.

Treatment should begin on a daily basis when symptoms first appear, which for most sufferers is in early autumn. Treatment involves sitting near a specially designed light box, usually 2 to 3 feet away, letting light shine directly into the eyes.

At SlumberSlumber we offer a range of products which can help with SAD:

The Bodyclock Starter

The Body Clock Starter is a convenient but effective device in dealing with the effects of SAD. The Body Clock Starter helps regulate sleeping patterns and boost energy levels so that SAD sufferers can benefit from greater functionality during the winter. It is cleverly designed to grow naturally brighter over a 30 minute period to wake you with the effect of a natural sunrise. The gradual effect prompts the body to reduce its production of sleep hormones, including melatonin, and increase production of ‘get up and go’ hormones, such as cortisol.  It encourages a natural healthy sleep cycle so that SAD sufferers can awake feeling revitalized and full of energy for the day ahead. It is also much more pleasant than an ordinary abrupt alarm clock. The 30 minute sunset option has the opposite effect of assisting sufferers in naturally unwinding gradually for a pleasant night’s sleep.

The Body Clock Active 250

The Body Clock Active 250 contains all of the same benefits as The Body Clock Starter, but with some additional features. It features a ‘white noise’ setting that is effective in cancelling out background noises which could be preventing you from getting to sleep peacefully. Therefore it is perfect for those who work shifts. Another advantage is that you can personalise the sunset option by choosing from 15, 30, 60 or 90 minute intervals. It also acts as an effective night or security light, with the option of setting the light to come on whilst you’re not at home – ideal for when you go on holidays. For those who enjoy the occasional late night or lie-in, or perhaps you’re just worried you’ll sleep in, The Body Clock Active 250 features a range of alarm tones such as a dawn chorus and a rooster wake up call, to ensure you wake on time for work or simply maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. However the majority of people find the light alone is effective in regulating the body clock after the first few nights’ use. Additionally, The Body clock Active 250 contains a radio with digital turning as well as numerous other audio features which will assist you in starting your day more energetically or help you relax before bed.

The Body Clock Elite 300

The Body Clock Elite 300 is designed to create the ultimate sleep experience and consists of everything you’d expect from a natural alarm clock as well as a radio and MP3 player. It allows you to wake without the drone of a traditional alarm clock, in natural light and to the sound of your favourite music. As well as pleasant alarm tones, such as a dawn chorus, The Body Clock Elite 300 features a range of soothing tones, including waves and two pieces of guided meditation, allowing you to drift off into a peaceful and relaxing sleep.

Life Max SAD Therapy Light

This therapy light has been specially designed to target the effects of SAD and improve the physical and mental well-being of sufferers during the short, dark winter months. The lamp uses blue spectrum CCFT (Cold Cathode Florescent Tube) tube to simulate daylight, reducing the effects of SAD and also jetlag. The SAD Therapy Lamp avoids ‘spotting’ in the eyes that other LED versions can produce. The Life Max SAD Therapy Light is slim line, light and portable so can be connected anywhere where there is a mains plug for your convenience.

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