The End of Daylight Saving Time Can Signal the Beginning of Seasonal Depression

People tend to welcome the end of daylight saving time much more than its beginning. When daylight saving time ends in the fall, we get to set our clocks back sixty minutes and revel in an extra hour of sleep – sort of. Time changes mean a shift in your sleep schedule, and it can be a difficult transition. There are ways to help you stay on track with sleep, but the end of daylight saving time also marks the start of seasonal depression for some.

What is seasonal depression?

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression, typically occurs during late fall through the winter and goes away during the spring and summer months. It’s possible to experience seasonal depression during the summer, but it’s uncommon.

People with seasonal depression experience common symptoms of major depression. These symptoms include:

  • sadness
  • loss of energy
  • social withdrawal
  • feelings of hopelessness, apathy, or self-loathing
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • suicidal thoughts
  • disinterest in things that you normally enjoy
  • changes in weight or appetite

Seasonal affective disorder is recurring and it has a regular pattern. SAD is diagnosed after a patient meets the criteria for major depression on a seasonal pattern for at least two years.

Who is at risk for seasonal depression?

Anyone can develop seasonal depression. Women, young people, and those with a personal or family history of depression are the most likely to experience seasonal depression, however. Women are four times as likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. Prevalence also increases the further you away you live from the equator.

What causes seasonal depression?

We don’t know the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder. Some research suggests that imbalances in seratonin, meltonin, and vitamin D may contribute to seasonal depression.

Some people with seasonal affective disorder produce more seratonin transporter protein in the winter than in the summer; thus leading to decreased serotonergic effect. Less exposure to sunlight could also increase melatonin production – melatonin helps regulate sleep – and lead to inadequate levels of vitamin D.

What can you do about seasonal depression?

The most common treatment for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. Some people find that sitting in front of a light therapy box on a daily basis for 20-60 minutes daily helps with symptoms of seasonal depression. Other treatments include medication and psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Establishing healthy sleep habits, exercising every day, and stress management could also help relieve symptoms of SAD.

Depression, whether it’s seasonal or not, isn’t something that you have to deal with on your own. Talk to your doctor if you have feelings of depression.