Nearly everyone appreciates the extra hour of sleep Daylight Savings affords, but health experts say they keep a close watch on how losing an hour of daylight can trigger seasonal affective disorder—full-fledged depression that comes on in the late fall and early winter.
The disorder, aka SAD, comes as a result of an imbalance of hormones in the hypothalamus, the section of the brain that helps produce melatonin and serotonin. It hits more women than men and common symptoms include a lack of concentration, sleep disturbance, pessimistic thoughts and significant weight gain through an increase of appetite.
Many of our hormones are regulated by sunlight, and less serotonin directly impacts many people's mood. It's estimated as many as 10 million Americans struggle with SAD.
Physicians encourage SAD patients increase their vitamin D intake, to be more active in the winter months and get more exposure to sunlight, quite often employing light box therapy, which patients are advised to use for 10 to 30 minutes a day.