November 2018

Feeling S.A.D.? It Might Not Just Be The Winter Blues

What do rock and roll king, Elvis Presley and country music superstar, Randy Travis have in common? They’ve both sung songs about how winter brings the blues – Blue Christmas and White Christmas Makes Me Blue respectively. While these particular songs are about love lost and heartbreak, it does play into the theme of how winter can be a dreary time of year, especially for those suffering with SAD – seasonal affective disorder.

SAD in its entire ironically self-explanatory acronym, is a category of depression that strikes during certain periods of the year, particularly during the darker, colder winter months.[1] However, as life naturally slows down during winter and people are more inclined to stay cooped up at home and curl up under a blanket, how do you know if you’re just embracing your winter hermit or if there’s a more serious problem going on?[2]



SAD symptoms manifest similarly to major depression – depressed mood, feeling of hopelessness, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, change in sleep and appetite, and loss of pleasure in activities you love.[3] However, SAD also brings a few unique symptoms which may help you identify whether or not you suffer from it:

  • Heavy feeling in your arms and legs
  • Frequent and persistent oversleeping
  • Cravings for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain
  • Relationship issues[4]

So what causes SAD? There are no concrete answers but here are two theories:

Disruption of Your Circadian Rhythm

Some experts believe that the annual seasonal change disrupts your circadian rhythm, which is your built-in 24 hour clock that regulates our sleeping and waking hours, causing us to either be energized and alert or sleepy and drowsy.[5]

Disruption of Your Serotonin and Melatonin Levels

Other experts believe that the change in seasons affects our serotonin and melatonin levels – hormones that regulate our sleep, moods and feelings of well-being.[6] According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, around 4-6% of US citizens suffer from SAD and around 20% might suffer a mild form it when the days grow darker faster and temperatures drop.[7]

So if you’re feeling SAD or even just struck with some winter blues, here are some ways to combat it:

Light Therapy

Invest in a light therapy box. These are designed to mimic sunlight, which should help regulate your circadian rhythms.[8] If you have been diagnosed with SAD, it is recommended that you sit in front of a light therapy box for at least half an hour every day, and for a lot of people it’s proven most effective if done first thing in the morning.[9]


Essential oils can help combat SAD as they influence the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating moods and your body’s internal clock.[10] Depending on your preference, you can add a few drops to your humidifier or to your nighttime bath to help you unwind and relax.[11]

An Actual Therapist

If you think that you’re suffering from SAD, make an appointment with your doctor. A therapist can help you identify whether or not your symptoms are from SAD or another form of depression and talk to you about how to manage it.[12]



As with most types of depression, SAD and winter blues can be combated with exercise. Logically, exercising outdoors not only gets the blood pumping but also maximizes your exposure to the sun but if it’s too cold or snowy, opt for a treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike and try to position it as close to a window as possible.[13]


In conclusion, if you find your energy levels dropping come winter and it gets harder to get out of bed as temperatures drop and the nights drag on, try some of the above methods. If you think that you may be suffering from SAD, consult a professional as they will be able to help you identify what your symptoms are and how to treat them. Whatever you decide, stay healthy, surround yourself with people, things and activities that put a smile on your face and enjoy the holidays!


[1] Lieber, Arnold, MD, ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder – A Guide to Treating SAD’, in, last updated November 16th, 2018, viewed on November 17th, 2018,

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Orenstein, Beth W., reviewed by Marusinec, Laura E., MD, ’12 Ways To Ease Seasonal Depression’, in Everyday Health, last updated June 5th, 2017, viewed on November 17th, 2018,

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Orenstein, Beth W., reviewed by Marusinec, Laura E., MD, ’12 Ways To Ease Seasonal Depression’, in Everyday Health, last updated June 5th, 2017, viewed on November 17th, 2018,

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] ibid