Pumpkin Spice, Shorter Days and Longer Nights

Pumpkin Spice, Shorter Days and Longer Nights


Sylvia A. Klatt, Psy.D.

Autumn brings changing colors, cooler temperatures, crisp mornings, apples and pumpkin spice fills the air….and the dreaded Daylight Savings time. As the clocks go back, the days are shorter and the nights are longer – too long for some – and we face the cold winter ahead.  This may cause some people to experience the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that comes and goes with seasonal changes, usually autumn and winter, which then subsides in spring or summer. Some SAD can occur in summer but is it much less common.  The prevalence of seasonal depression varies with geographic regions.  Typically, 0%-1% of the population closest to the equator and 15%-25% of the population in northern regions experience symptoms of SAD.


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder may include:


  • feeling depressed or sad
  • being irritable, grumpy or “moody”
  • low energy and fatigue
  • a desire or need to sleep more
  • loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • increased social withdrawal; tendency to “hibernate”
  • changes in appetite – overeating, craving carbohydrates, weight gain
  • low motivation
  • poor concentration and difficulty remembering things


Some biological factors may contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Less sunlight may reduce serotonin levels which affects mood and may increase depression. Low vitamin D levels are common with less sunlight and have been linked to depression.  Our internal clocks or circadian rhythms may be thrown off by less sunlight, increasing feelings of depression.  Also, melatonin, which helps regulate mood and sleep patterns, may be out of balance with seasonal changes.


If you experience SAD, here are some things to help you manage or reduce the symptoms:


  1. Light therapy or phototherapy – use a light therapy box 20-30 minutes daily in the morning
  2. Get out in the daylight, soak up the sun; blinds up and curtains open; as it gets darker out, turn on more lights
  3. Exercise – helps increase endorphins (“feel good” ) and reduces chances of weight gain
  4. Spend time with others – DO NOT HIBERNATE! Meet for a meal, plan outings and activities, take a class for fun, have a party, volunteer
  5. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and eat healthy
  6. Vitamin D – low levels may contribute to SAD, consult with your medical doctor to determine if testing for low vitamin D levels and use of supplements is appropriate
  7. Take a vacation to a warm, sunny place – just the planning, excitement and anticipation of the trip automatically lifts your mood
  8. Aromatherapy and essential oils – have shown positive effects on mood, energy and focus
  9. Antidepressants – Consult with your medical doctor to determine if appropriate
  10. Psychotherapy – Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been affective for the treatment of SAD by identifying negative thought patterns and behaviors and replacing them with more positive thought and enjoyable activities


Being proactive and positive is the best way to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder and be SAD no more! Please call Barnes & Klatt P.C. at (847)981-9200 should you wish to consult with one of our psychologists to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Embrace change and enjoy the beauty of the seasons!






*Article references from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Mayo Clinic




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