In ALL cases of SAD, however, melatonin seems to be the common link in the causes of the disorder. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland.
The pineal gland lies at the base of the brain. When the sun goes down, and darkness comes, the pineal gland “goes to work.” As melatonin production rises, a person begins to feel less alert and body temperature starts to fall. Sleep seems more inviting.
Then, melatonin levels drop quickly with the dawning of a new day. Levels are so low during the day, in fact, that scientists often have difficulty detecting melatonin at all during the day.
Melatonin levels thus go hand in hand with the light-dark cycle, not just for people, but also for plants and animals that keep alert during the day.
Melatonin production is also related to age. Children manufacture more melatonin than the elderly do and melatonin production begins to drop at puberty. Also, when days become shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases.
Melatonin levels in the body determine a person’s activity and “energy” level. High melatonin levels cause drowsiness, while low melatonin levels correspond to an alert state of consciousness.
Light therapy using special light lamps is the most common ways to alleviate this struggle for alertness.
Our bodies need a full spectrum of light to carry out a variety of metabolic processes and produce melatonin at acceptable levels. Light entering the eye regulates body chemistry, and in particular, the secretion or suppression of melatonin. Note, however, that due to UV dangers, therapists do not recommend the use of tanning beds as a cure for SAD http://www.nu-light.com.
Some very light-sensitive people who live or work in dim environments may feel improvement with increased exposure to normal room light.
Research studies show, however, that most sufferers of SAD and winter doldrums require exposure to light levels much higher than ordinary indoor lamps and ceiling fixtures provide.
Such therapeutic levels are five to twenty times higher (as measured in lux or foot-candles by a light meter) than typical indoor illumination in the home or office. Aside from these environmental treatments, some sufferers find that standard antidepressant medications provide relief, even if they do not reach their normal level of well being until spring or summer.
Many patients have been in psychotherapy and found it to be helpful to them in many ways – but unfortunately, not in relieving their SAD symptoms www.lightandions.org/blt.htm.
However, as Muslims we can have faith that the symptoms of SAD will not remain all year long. For Allah (swat) set everything in motion and the days will grow long again as soon as December 21st.
On this shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest and weakest, a pivotal point from which the light will grow stronger and brighter once again feeding us with light and warmth. This event will alleviate SAD and make it easier to arise and perform wudu and salat.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. “Information from Your Family Doctor, Seasonal Affective Disorder.” American Academy of Family Physicians. February 2000.
- Anderson JL; Rosen LN; Mendelson WB; Jacobsen FM; Skwerer RG; Joseph-Vanderpool JR; Duncan CC; Wehr TA; Rosenthal NE. “Sleep in Fall/Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder: Effects of Light and Changing Seasons.” Journal of Psychosomatic. 1994 May, 38:4, 323-37.
- Bagby RM; Schuller DR; Levitt AJ; Joffe RT; Harkness KL. “Seasonal and Non-Seasonal Depression and the Five-Factor Model of Personality.” Canda: University of Toronto: J Affect Disorders. 1996 Jun 5, 38:2-3, 89-95.
- Birtwistle J; Martin N. “Seasonal Affective Disorder: Its Recognition and Treatment.” British Journal of Nursing. 1999 Aug, 8:15, 1004-9.
- Lindsley, Gila. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): About Light, Depression & Melatonin.” USA: New Technology Publishing, Inc.
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