15 things you didn’t know about seasonal affective disorder

It’s October, it’s raining and it was dark and gloomy when your alarm went off this morning.

While for some people autumn and winter are just colder, less pleasant times of year, it’s a time that can bring serious mental illness.

Here’s a handful of things you might not have known about this seasonal depression disorder the kids are calling SAD.

1.Tiredness, low mood and a lack of passion for life are three of the most common symptoms, making the illness a form of depression.

2. While 20 per cent of the population suffer from the ‘winter blues’ on some level, two per cent suffer to such an extent that it disrupts every day life and is classified as severe depression.

3. Until the 1980s it wasn’t recognised as a real illness – medical professionals assumed it was a made up ailment by people who simply didn’t like the cold.

4. December, January and February are the worst months, but symptoms can start as early as September and, in the worst cases, they can go on until March.

5. People aged 18-30 are the most at risk from suffering from SAD.

6. Women are three times more likely to suffer from it than men.

7. One of the reasons you might feel extra groggy in the mornings during the winter months is because your brain produces melatonin when it’s dark to make you feel sleepy. If it’s still dark when you wake up then your brain is still producing the hormones to make you tired.

8. Sunlight produces the hormone serotonin that regulates our appetite and mood, and in the winter we obviously get less sunlight which means less serotonin. Research shows that low serotonin levels can lead to depression.

9. The lack of natural daylight can also throw off your natural body clock, which can lead to tiredness during the day and a low mood to match.

10. People with SAD typically spend more time in bed awake, require more time to fall asleep and experience poorer sleep quality than those without it.

11. Nearly 10 per cent of people in north Finland suffer from SAD, compared to 1.4 per cent in Florida – proof that warmer, sunnier weather makes a difference.

12. Mental health charity Mind suggest taking a winter sun holiday if you can afford it – in case you were looking for a reason…

13. Seasonal depression disorder is widely treated with the use of a light box, which sits on your desk or next to your bed and helps up your hormone levels with ‘real’ sunlight.

14. One theory is that SAD has evolved over thousands of years as an adaption of hibernation in a remote ancestor. Which makes sense because it makes you want to, well, hibernate.

15. Despite the existence of SAD, worldwide suicide rates are actually higher in late spring and early summer.