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Can Your Choice of Window Treatments Help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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Seasonal depression As the days begin to get shorter, many people begin to feel sluggish, finding it harder to concentrate and maintain their motivation.  Commonly this is referred to as the winter blues.  For some people, the decrease in daylight hours leads to more extensive depression, known as seasonal affective disorder.  This condition often begins in September or October and lasts through March or April, and the American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that it is experienced by 4% to 6% of the population.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Unlike regular depression, which is not tied specifically to the time of year it is experienced, seasonal affective disorder is linked to the months when daylight hours are shorter.  The symptoms, however, are the same, these being a tendency to sleep more, lack of energy, appetite changes, irritability, sadness, and challenges related to concentration.  Not surprisingly, those who live far from the equator tend to experience it more, as they have fewer hours in which to absorb daylight.  Women tend to suffer from it more than men, particularly between the ages of 20 and 40, and experts think this may be due to hormone levels.

While seasonal affective disorder is not entirely understood, genetic factors may contribute to a predisposition to this condition, as it has been shown to run in families.  The neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for making melatonin, also likely has a role.  When the seasons change, the body’s level of melatonin can be disrupted, and this can cause sleep issues and mood changes.

How Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?

While medications and exercise are often recommended by physicians to treat seasonal affective disorder, experts also often advise the use of light boxes, dawn simulators, and light therapy that help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and provide more access to light.  Lifestyle changes include making sure that your environment is bright.  Maximizing exposure to natural sunlight can be helpful, and is easy to do.  This may involve taking a walk or being outside as much as you can during daylight hours.

When it comes to time spent indoors, it is advisable to sit near bright windows at work and in your home.   Your choice of window coverings can make this easier.  It is wise to avoid spending time in rooms with blackout curtains or darkening shades.  Coverings that can be easily opened and closed will allow you to maximize your exposure.  For rooms in which privacy is a concern, consider light filtering as opposed to light blocking treatments during daytime.  Leave blinds and shades open during peak sunlight hours.

It is important to talk to a physician who can determine whether your symptoms are seasonal affective disorder, depression, or another condition.  Seasonal affective disorder can get worse if it is left untreated.  Maximizing exposure to daylight may be part of your treatment plan, and choosing window coverings that allow light to enter your home may be helpful even for those who just tend to feel more sluggish and tired this time of year.

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