Tahlequah Daily Press

December 27, 2013

Tips for shaking off the winter blues

Dr. Brent Rotton, D.O.

TAHLEQUAH — Do the shorter, darker days seem to be reflected in a gloomier mood? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Doctors say whether or not you treat the problem often depends on whether it is interfering with your daily life.

The length of daylight hours is the trigger with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The body’s secretion of melatonin and other hormones is timed by exposure to natural light. We all have circadian or biological rhythms that are timed by sunlight. That light is what resets our biological clocks. If a seasonal mood disorder is diagnosed, the treatment may consist of medication or even bright light therapy which replicates sunlight exposure.

If you experience some of the following symptoms every winter, you may have a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern:

• Dramatic reduction in energy when the days get shorter and darker.

• Difficulty waking up in the morning.

• Sleeping more than you used to, or sleeping too much.

• Increased appetite.

• Problems concentrating

• Low energy and fatigue

• Reduced interest in daily activities

• Moodiness

• Craving carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and sweets.

• Weight gain from overeating, especially in women.

• Sleeping too much and having a heavy feeling in the arms and legs.

People who suffer from SAD may just have symptoms of irritability and lack of energy.

Even if you don’t have SAD, it’s easy to let the dark, dreary days of winter get us down. Home treatment recommendations from our physician may include:

• Light therapy – timed exposure to light that stimulates bright sunlight.

• Exercise – this helps fight fatigue and depression.

• Good nutrition – cut down on carbohydrates and increase protein if you are dealing with the symptoms of SAD.

Dr. Brent Rotton is the chief of staff at Tahlequah City Hospital.