If you find yourself going to bed early, sleeping later, feeling sleepy all day, and craving waistline-bulging carbs as the days get shorter, chances are that you’re trying to hibernate.
If you were a bear, it wouldn’t be a problem. But since you’re not, it means you likely have a mild form of depression called Winter Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It’s a problem that affects more than 11 million of us every year. Four times as many women develop it as men, and those who live in the northern United States and Canada are eight times as likely to experience it as those living farther south.
The problem is the hormone melatonin, which is produced in a specific part of your brain when the sun goes down. It’s a major controlling factor in sleep, and during the low-light months of fall and winter, those of us with a tendency toward winter depression tend to produce more melatonin than others?enough to make us sleepy and sap our energy. Fortunately, exposure to bright light is the cure. It suppresses the brain’s production of melatonin and helps to maintain control of our sleep cycle, energy production, and carbs.
Most of us don’t get enough bright light in the winter, so researchers have developed a device called a light box that will give us what we need. The device produces an intense white light, and using it for 20 to 30 minutes every day can lift winter depression.
To find a listing of light-box manufacturers, go to the Web site for the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at www.sltbr.org.