Lack of sunlight may make us SAD

We’re entering the prime time for SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some 36-million Americans suffer from SAD, due to a lack of sunlight during the fall and winter. Social worker Maggie Conrad says Nebraskans are geographically susceptible to SAD and they need to be aware of its symptoms.

Conrad says it often sets in after age 20 and may include: weight gain, heavy feeling in arms and legs, cravings for sweet or starchy foods, fatigue, oversleeping, irritability, and avoiding social situations. Without sunlight, she says our brains don’t produce enough serotonin, which can bring on those symptoms. They’ll usually diminish as the days get longer, but she says there’s an easier solution — sitting under a special lamp.

You can buy the lamps at places like You use the lights in the morning for 30 minutes, held 18 to 24 inches from your face, and she says it really helps.

Given all of the nation’s economic turmoil, she says the additional stress of the holidays is only making things worse for some people. “I am, in my practice, seeing more stress-related issues regarding finances,” Conrad says. “I think it is contributing to an increase in general depression particularly this time of year because the finances are so blatantly important at this time.”

Other treatments that might help include counseling or antidepressants. Exercise is another plus, as being active during the daytime may help you to have more energy.