It’s the middle of summer, and for many that means school’s out, the grass is green, and it’s time to hit the beach with friends and family.
But for some, summer can be the most challenging time of year. The beach is too hot and sunscreen is annoying, we have to go out of our way to see our friends outside of the classroom, and the idea of mowing the yard every week fills us with dread.
While most people sympathize these summertime annoyances, to others the heat and sunshine have a crushing effect on mood, especially to individuals who already have depression. Instead of signaling the time to unwind and shed our winter coats, the heat and sunshine mimics the effects of winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is known as summer SAD, and its causes are not entirely understood.
What we do know is our circadian rhythms, the internal clock in our brains, can be thrown off by the longer days and shorter nights the season brings, yet another contribution toward our nation’s sleep deficit.
And heat is also thought to contribute to SAD. It’s no secret that discomfort from heat and humidity makes us more prone to anger and lethargy, but it also brings out the summer wardrobe, opening the door to body image issues that just make us want to stay home.
If summer and all that it brings make you feel depressed, depletes your energy and disrupt sleep, there are practical steps that can help you deal with the season. Melatonin is the hormone that controls the body’s circadian rhythm and can be purchased over the counter. Taking some right before you want to go to bed may reset your circadian rhythm and help put your brain back into balance. Keeping cool as much as possible throughout the day can also help with feelings of lethargy and irritation. Cooling blankets are a good alternative to turning up the AC at night.
If you think you are being affected by summer SAD, see your healthcare provider about possible remedies so you can enjoy the rest of the summer season.