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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Why Feeling SAD In Summer Is More Common Than You Think

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most commonly associated with the winter blues, but surprisingly, the longer and warmer days of spring and summer can be more of a challenge for some people. Here’s a look at what might trigger summer SAD, and which strategies are most effective at treating it. 

What is SAD?

The NHS describes SAD as a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It’s commonly referred to as ‘winter depression’, because the majority of people find that their symptoms are worse during the winter. Typical symptoms include a low mood, poor concentration, irritability, lack of energy, comfort eating and disrupted sleep patterns.

It’s not fully understood why SAD affects some people, but some research suggests that it is linked to the shorter daylight hours of winter. It is thought that a lack of sunlight can reduce the levels of serotonin produced in the body, which is the hormone that helps to regulate our emotions, sleep patterns and appetite. 

So why does SAD occur in the summer?

Many people traditionally look forward to the longer warmer days of summer, when it is easier to spend more time enjoying the outdoors. However, it’s the case that some people experience the opposite of the winter blues, and instead struggle with the symptoms of SAD during the spring and summer. 

The causes of summer time SAD remain an ongoing topic of research, but there are several theories as to why it might occur. One is that it may be caused by the disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm as the days lengthen, as it can reduce the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep patterns.  

Additionally, hot and humid summer nights, combined with extra noise from open windows, can make it more difficult to sleep well. This can lead to irritability and worse concentration during the day. People who normally enjoy stress-busting outdoor exercise such as running or cycling may find it is more challenging during the heat of the summer.

Heatwaves in Britain are often followed by storms and downpours, and this unpredictable weather pattern can make some people more anxious, and frustrate carefully laid plans such as weddings and garden parties. 

The extra social events of summer such as barbecues and fetes can be stressful in themselves for some people, because they may feel pressured into socialising more than they would like, or feel that they are missing out and that everyone else is having a better time.

How can summer SAD be treated?

Some people find that a carefully controlled bedroom environment, with blackout curtains, fans or air conditioning, and bedding with stay-cool technology can help them to maintain a good sleep schedule. Learning to say no and resist the pressure to accept all invitations may be useful for people who find themselves overwhelmed by social events.

For those who feel that they are missing out, joining a club that holds regular meetings or events may help. If the symptoms persist, some people may benefit from a consultation with an anxiety therapist who can help them to develop effective coping strategies. 

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