In the winter, the decreased amount of sunlight tells animals, plants, and humans that a season of change is upon us. Bears go into light hibernation, turtles fall into a dead sleep, and queen bees hide underground until spring.
Although humans aren’t as seasonal as animals, these cyclical changes can have a dramatic effect on our biology.
Up to 20 percent of people experience SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It’s a form of depression connected to fatigue, decreased cognitive ability, moodiness, and social withdrawal.
SAD affects both sexes, but it can affect women more than men. It’s also more prevalent in areas of higher latitude.
Lack of sunlight primarily triggers SAD, which can create an avalanche of hormonal problems. When sunlight enters our eyes, it activates the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good hormones. Less sunlight means less feel-good.
Also, a 2001 study showed that people who suffered from SAD secreted more of the sleep hormone melatonin during the winter months than in warmer months. I experienced this firsthand when I moved to Vancouver Island. It gets dark and isolated in the winter, and it definitely affects me.
Since I couldn’t crawl under a rock and sleep until March, I beat it naturally with food, supplements, improved sleep habits, and a bit of old-school technology. Here's what worked for me: