In the last weekend of October, the clock is set for one hour and winter time has gone. This is a period of less sunlight, colder temperatures and unfortunately also more likely to occur in typical winter diseases.
The cold winter season always shows a peak in viral infections, usually common colds and flu viruses. These viruses often cause an underlying respiratory tract disease and can lead to pneumonia and asthma attacks. Otitis and gastrointestinal infections, such as the norovirus, are also typical winter diseases. We are more vulnerable because we spend more time indoors and in confined spaces with other people, where these pathogens are easily transferred.
Even when you go outside, the cold in, you can get sick. Anyone suffering from a bad circulatory disease gets more complaints. For example, people with Raynaud’s disease, which means their hands and feet are not well blooded, are very sensitive to colder temperatures. Furthermore, it has been shown that cold weather increases the risk of a heart attack.
Vitamin D deficiency
The lack of sunlight is also an attack on our body, which works better in a more tropic climate that shines throughout the year. Vitamin D – essential for the absorption of calcium from nutrition and healthy bones and teeth – is created by the skin under the influence of sunlight. Therefore, many people, due to a lack of sunlight, have a worse resistance in winter. This can easily be solved with vitamin D supplements, which are available everywhere.
SAD, seasonal affective disorder
Additionally, the dark days and the lack of sunlight also contribute to the currently accepted SAD * disease, a seasonal affective disorder that will be discussed in more detail. Although the winter brings holidays like Christmas and New Year and so should be a festive season, it’s unfortunately not so festive for many people at all.
When the clock is returned and we do not see much sunlight during daytime (the days are shorter and often cloudy), people may suffer from depressive complaints such as gloominess, low energy, reduced interest in the environment, and a lot of sleep need. Other symptoms of SAD are an increased/decreased appetite, less sense of sex, and concentration problems in combination with anxiety and irritability. The difference between SAD and depression is that the complaints occur only in winter and return to winter. However, winter can also be a depression that is already exacerbating people.
The exact cause of this is not clear. The main theory is that in winter, the serotonin level in the brain – which makes us feel happy – is lower, while the melatonin level – which makes us feel sleepy and that may disturb our biological clock – is higher.
As we can not influence the weather, treatment options are aimed at regulating these chemical processes in our body. It is no surprise that a widely used treatment is light therapy. This means that you will be sitting in a light box for 30-60 minutes – just put on the table – giving a bright white light. It is advisable to sit close to the bin (but not too close) and not to look directly at the light, as with natural sunlight. Another – more expensive – option is a winter vacation to the sun if you are lucky to be within your budget light therapy is a more affordable alternative option.
Medical treatments are aimed at increasing serotonin levels using SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as fluoxetine, taken from autumn to spring. Both SSRIs and light therapy have been shown (separately) to have a beneficial effect on the symptoms, and that this effect can be further enhanced by regular exercise.