With fall weather coming and October already well under way, the days are getting shorter.
Shorter days mean less sunlight and a higher percentage of waking hours spent in darkness. And because many people spend most of these shortened daylight hours indoors, it also means a lack of direct sunlight and Vitamin D.
For years, people knew that this change of rhythm could lead to negative thoughts and feelings, a phenomenon which came to be identified as a definable mental health issue that millions suffer from every year: seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
SAD is a recognized mental health condition that can manifest itself in fatigue, depression and social withdrawal. It affects not only mood, but also the well-being and social function of sufferers. Because northern Virginia experiences several weeks of much less daylight in the winter, it is a serious concern for many residents.
While the exact causes of SAD are not fully understood, the condition is both widely recognized and treatable. In fact, many people who suffer from SAD are fully capable of diagnosing themselves. If you recognize a recurrence of symptoms, you can find many treatments and strategies on your own which are accessible and affordable.
One popular treatment is a “SAD lamp,” a specialized light device. Unlike most sources of indoor artificial light, a SAD lamp mimics sunlight, which can trigger the body to release serotonin. While the efficacy of this treatment cannot be guaranteed, it is also virtually risk-free.
Prince William Public Libraries has nearly 20 SAD lamps in our collection. They can be checked out, renewed and put on hold. Each comes with instructions for use.
If you or somebody close to you suffers from SAD – or thinks they might -- or if you simply believe a little extra light exposure might do you and your mood some good, please check out this new product by searching for “SAD Lamp” in the online catalog or from your library.
Kirk Johnson is a manager in the Prince William Public Libraries Material Services Division.