Seasonal affective disorder (abbreviated as SAD, which feels a little on the nose) is a type of depression that is season-specific, typically occurring in the late fall/early winter. The National Institute of Mental Health defines SAD as “a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern.” Symptoms are similar to major depression and can include loss of interest in hobbies, low energy, sleep issues, social withdrawal, and changes in appetite. Seasonal affective disorder impacts sleep, too, but there are a few things you can do to continue getting quality zzzs.
For most people, the side effects of SAD last four to five months, though it can vary depending on other lifestyle factors, like where you live, according to Sherry Benton, Ph.D., therapist and founder of digital mental health platform TAO Connect, a UF Innovate | Accelerate startup, who says the scientific community is in debate as to why SAD occurs. “We know that circadian rhythms tend to be a factor in SAD and productivity levels in the winter. It also tends to run in families, and biological changes in neurotransmitters and circadian rhythms have been found in research studies,” she explains. In addition, Dr. Benton says it is common to develop SAD if you live where daylight hours are shorter in the winter.Learn more about Here’s How Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Make Sleep Worse—And What You Can Try, According to a Therapist.