It may be no coincidence that the dark days of winter darken your mood -- millions of people across the country may be feeling the effects of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can particularly affect people in Portland.
"All of a sudden things changed and felt dark," said Leneva Spires, who noticed it would hit her each winter.
"I think I've known for a really long time that there were issues around winter and a lack of sun," said Spires.
However, it wasn't until she took part in a special study at OHSU that Spires realized she suffers from SAD.
"There are a lot of people suffering from it," said Dr. Al Lewy, a professor of Psychiatry at OHSU. He's a pioneer in the field, who's been studying the disorder for 35 years.
"Most people know they suffer from winter depression because they get it every winter," said Lewy.
While only 5 percent of people in Oregon suffer from the most severe form, up to 50 percent have at least one symptom of winter depression between fall and spring, according to Lewy.
"Winter depression is increased sleep during the winter; despite increased sleep, low energy, difficulty getting up in the morning, increased preferences for carbs, increased weight gain," said Lewy.
Between our weather, geographical location and time of dawn, our winter days are shorter, with less light.
So if you can't get real rays, Lewy, the first doctor to treat a SAD patient with bright light, recommends as little as five minutes in front of a light box when you first wake up.
"It helps tremendously," said Spires, who sits in front of her box with breakfast. he says, for her, it's made all the difference.
"It's like that day in the summer," said Spires. "I don't have to go into those dark, dark days that are endless and relentless with no light and no hope until spring."
Lewy says, at this point, the light therapy is the best treatment. However, a small dose of melatonin is also being studied for its effects on the condition.
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