Do Cloudy Days Make Your Brain Feel Sluggish?
This week will be another gloom rainy week straight through Mother’s Day as the “Omega Block” has us locked in for more showers and storms.
If all of this gray whether has you binging on sweets and carbs, couch-lounging, and craving sunshine, you are not alone.
Research on Weather and Mood
A study, conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that people were almost three times as likely to have impaired cognition after gloomy weather compared to those in sunny climates especially if they were also experiencing some symptoms of depression.
For example, 14,000 adult participants of a national study on stroke risk factors were also given a quick test for cognition and asked a series of questions to determine whether they were depressed. At the beginning of the test they were told three words — “table, apple, penny” — and then asked to repeat the words back to the interviewer, explains the study’s lead author Shia Kent. Next they were asked several orientation-type questions, including what day of the week it was, what month and what year. After they answered those questions, they were asked to recall the three words they had initially been asked to repeat. (Were they able to repeat the words?) Not surprising, the new study hints that lack of sunshine can cloud memory and other thinking or “cognitive” functions in some people with depression.
There is a well-known association between sunlight exposure and mood. The clearest example is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression in which symptoms shift with the seasons, usually arising in the late fall and winter and improving in sunnier months. SAD symptoms include depression, feeling down, low energy, tiredness, irritability, and less control of appetite. Neal Owens knows SAD symptoms first hand. He was one of the first participants in the National Institute of Mental Heath (NIMH) study that discovered that one in four people are affected by seasonal depression. Add stress and it gets worse. Stress can push the mild blues sufferer into a dangerous clinical depression.
Until recently, little was known about how sunshine can affect thinking and memory. These findings also raise the possibility that light therapy; which is a standard fast acting treatment for SAD; might improve depressed individuals’ memory, thinking, and cognition as well. Light Therapy can be used year round depending on the amount of sunshine outdoors, especially for those trapped indoors without ample daylight.
“This new report is exciting,” says Owens; President of The SunBox Company. “ Get a SunBox light, use it for 15-30 minutes feel better within a few days. You can have a nice sunny day, regardless of the weather or season.”
Light Therapy can help!
Owens believes that gloomy weather and stress may be having an impact on his industry. “We’ve been hearing from a lot of doctors that are seeing more patients complaining about Stress, SAD, and gloomy weather. These patients feel they might be experiencing much milder symptoms if not for the additional stress. See your doctor to get a prescription for a light unit; there is a good chance that your health insurance will pick up the cost of the light box. “Light can bring joy to patients and their doctors, especially when they see how fast symptoms improve.” says Owens.”
Here is a link to the study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2728098/