Friday, February 4, 2005

  • Lack of sun just adds to the gloom...

    Lack of sun just adds to the gloom...

Written by James Cunningham (Contest Entry)


During this time of the year, it is important to remember that you might not be feeling down because of the course load that you have, or the fact that you are worrying about paying the bills. These may influence your mood of course, but there might be something else that is generally overlooked and under appreciated-the weather.

During these bleak months, with the few precious hours of sunlight we have being taken up by class and the other day to day activities of life, we tend to see less and less of the sun. This can translate into something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., which was first noticed in more northern climates in the 1840’s, but not correctly diagnosed and officially named until the 1980s.

While there isn’t an official explanation yet, it is believed to be caused by the fact that our biological internal clocks, like all other animals, are out of “sync” with the daily activities that we undertake. This is all too apparent with university students, who keep odder hours, and generally stay up later than the rest of the general population. It has been noted that the toughest months for those suffering from S.A.D. are January and February, and that younger people and women are at a higher risk than others.

Strides have been made in the health industry to help this disorder in the last twenty years. There are two diverging methods of treatment, both dealing with the issue of Melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-related hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Much in the way that Seratonin regulates our happy moods, Melatonin, which may cause symptoms of depression, is produced more during darker hours.

The first method of treatment tackles the issue of lack of light. Phototherapy, or bright light therapy, involves a series of white fluorescent lights reflecting off a sheet of metal. Although there has been no direct links between bright light therapy and its benefits as an antidepressant, it still has produced results for many.

The second method of treatment involves taking Melatonin capsules. Melatonin is artificially produced, and legal over the counter. While there has been a ban on its sale in Canada due to the increased need for testing, Melatonin capsules are readily available for sale on the Internet. These capsules claim to help with your sleeping cycle, thus increasing your energy levels and lowering depression.

With all these possible methods, there is one thing to remember; sometimes the most natural methods are still the best. Getting outside, going for a walk or other winter activity can help to lower the chances of you having the S.A.D. effect. In one study, it was shown that a walk outside in winter sunlight had the same effect as two and a half hours under bright artificial light. What does all this mean? Finding some time to be outside, not just walking between classes or to and from the bus stop may help more than you think.

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit


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