Womens Health

Why Students Are SAD

Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow. That means that we've got six more weeks of winter on the way. For some of us, this is depressing news and makes us grab our furry slippers and a bowl of popcorn for yet another boring night of indoor entertaining. For others, the winter weather poses a danger in the form of a mental disorder known as Seasonal Affectation Disorder (SAD).

Young people are especially vulnerable to the various types of depression and since much of the school year takes place during winter, SAD has reached near epidemic proportions in the student population. When students are asked to describe how SAD affects them, they say that they notice changes in both their moods and in their level of physical activity. One student, Kyra Weston* elaborated, "I'm just always tired. I feel loaded down with work and stress. Pretty much I have no appetite, either."

Sleep Issues

Student Counselor Mitchell Lipton* says that many of the students are reporting that it's hard for them to get out of bed in the mornings with some stating they need more sleep than they needed during the months of spring and fall. "We see it every winter. Students have sleep issues, they're tired much of the time, and begin to binge eat, as well."

Lipton and other experts realize that these symptoms tend to apply to university students in any season. However, the Mayo Clinic states that it's crucial to identify the student whose symptoms persist, since this indicates a more serious problem. Persistent symptoms are categorized as those which last beyond a few days or symptoms that have been seen in previous years during the same time frame.

The student counselor says that among the symptoms students have reported to him are joint pain, a general achiness, and a tendency to run out of energy before a task can be completed. Sophomore Arlene Crosse* explains the phenomenon, "During the summer months, I always feel like I could go on for days without needing a drop of sleep. But during the winter months, it's the other way around. I feel like I could sleep for days on end."

Circadian Rhythms

Lipton says that the problem is seen more often on college campuses located in the most northerly regions of the hemisphere where there are lower than average levels of sunshine during the winter months. The Mayo Clinic says that reduced levels of sunshine disrupt the circadian sleep rhythms and reduce hormone levels of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate sleep cycles while serotonin has an effect on mood.

*Names have been changed.


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