As I was lying in bed earlier this week, before the sun came up, I began lamenting the idea of getting out of bed while it was still dark, and for a brief moment I got excited about the impending time change. But just as quickly as my excitement came… it went. My ongoing confusion around Daylight Savings Time has often left me unsure about the effect that the time change has on the sunrise and sunset. Even though I’ve mastered the “Spring forward” “Fall back” mnemonic, I can’t always wrap my head around how that changes my waking cycle. This is not true for everyone.
Evolutionarily speaking, winter has been a time for hibernation; and for us as humans, it still means longer sleep cycles due to increased melatonin. It’s nature’s way of slowing down our system and preparing us for longer periods of darkness. We also experience lower levels of serotonin due to a decrease in hours of sunlight each day. This combination of increased melatonin and lower serotonin levels can create overwhelming sadness for some people, especially women. In other words, their biology betrays them and they literally hibernate themselves into a state of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Left untreated, SAD can lead to dangerous levels of depression.
As with most things in life, there is also an opposing aspect to SAD, so where there is dark… there is light. Although the number of people affected by SAD during the summer months is much lower, some people do experience symptoms such as elevated mood, hyperactivity, anxiety and a decrease in appetite. These symptoms can be equally disruptive if left untreated.
For me, I typically struggle with the idea of Daylight Savings Time and the seasonal changes that are marked by this biannual event. So once I corralled myself out of bed, ran the mnemonic over in my mind a few times, resigned myself to the fact that for several more weeks I’ll be waking up before the sun rises, and stopped at Starbucks for my Chai Tea Latte, I was able to get on with my day. I look forward to April when the sun will wake me along with the birds of spring.
So with that being said… I’d like to propose a toast in honor of those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.
For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) you can reference a previous blog post written by Clare Carr, LPC, CAC II titled The Seasons are A’changin, and for more information on Daylight Savings Time you can visit the Time and Date website.
Dawn Goers, MA is a Pro Bono Therapist and the Intake Manager at Maria Droste Counseling Center. In addition to her work at Maria Droste Counseling Center she has a private practice in Castle Pines, where she works with children, adolescents and adult clients. She specializes in therapeutic interventions that help to empower clients who have experienced trauma, grief and loss and who have had relationship issues with an emphasis in infidelity work.
If you would like to speak to a therapist about this subject or about any other issue you may be experiencing, contact the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.
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by Dawn Goers, MA