WAC Magazine

November/December 2012

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Page 19 of 65

Wellness By Paul Dompé, ND Tamela Thomas, Wellness Manager tamelat@wac.net 206.464.4639 Woe is he who lives in darkness I count myself lucky. I love the fall, with its bright-colored leaves swirling in the wind, dropping temperatures, and shorter days. Any excuse to hunker down under an afghan and drink herbal tea works for me. Well, there are a good number of folks out there who begin to suffer at this changing of the season. Seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D., can impact pro- ductivity and interpersonal relation- ships. It can even cause a marked loss of interest or pleasure. Six percent of the U.S. popula- tion is affected by S.A.D. People living in northern climates—Seattle included—experience a higher incidence. That's the bad news. The good news is that 97 percent of those with S.A.D. respond to light therapy, an intervention both affordable and portable. This month, Dr. Paul Dompé addresses the topic, giving us more information about the various degrees of S.A.D. and what we can do to lift our spirits. Let there be light A Ease into the darker days of winter with light therapy levels of light by growing quieter, seeking more sleep, and looking for additional nourishment. In fact, most animals that don't migrate or hibernate respond this same way. Humans are no different. For some of us, however, the changes induced by fall and winter extend beyond these normal patterns. Seasonal changes can, in fact, be debilitating. When the winter blues become more severe, we call it seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D). The impact of S.A.D. can be extensive. In addition to the well-known relationship between sunlight and vitamin D s we head into the colder and darker months of fall and winter, many of us may start to feel a drop in energy, a downturn in mood, and even changes to our appetite or sleep patterns. Our bodies respond to diminished production, light exposure impacts our mood and sleep patterns in other ways. For example, light stimulates cells in our retinas that send signals to the pineal gland deep in the brain. The pineal gland is responsible for circadian rhythms that affect mood and sleep and involve the hormones melatonin and serotonin. Low light exposure decreases levels of serotonin and increases levels of melatonin. In turn, low serotonin causes us to feel down, and high melatonin makes us feel sleepy. Some of us also experience low libido, sugar cravings and insomnia. In Seattle, a relatively high-latitude city that also experiences frequent cloud cover, finding adequate amounts of light from October through April can be particularly challenging. For anyone experiencing S.A.D. as a result, light therapy can help. 20 | Washington Athletic Club Magazine | NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2012

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