Do you tend to feel more depressed and lethargic as the weather gets colder, and the nights grow longer? It’s a common complaint, and often dismissed as just being a case of the “winter blues”. But the depression caused by the changing seasons can have a massive impact on anyone affected. So, can CBD help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) aren’t fully understood, but it’s thought to be linked to reduced exposure to daylight. The disruption to your body’s internal clock and production of both melatonin and serotonin changes, and this can cause various symptoms of depression.
And while research directly investigating using CBD to alleviate symptoms hasn’t appeared yet, there’s growing evidence of the potential benefits for helping with sleep and insomnia, anxiety and stress as part of self-treatment or professional support.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Although it’s most commonly associated with winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder can also occur during spring or summer. After being initially reported and named in a research paper by Norman E. Rosenthal M.D in 1984, it’s become classified as a common recurrent major depressive disorder.
Symptoms will vary between individuals, but can include:
- Persistent low mood
- Despair, guilt and worthlessness
- Sleep problems, including lethargy, feeling sleepy during the day, and finding it hard to get out of bed.
- Oversleeping and difficulty getting out of bed
- Craving carbohydrates and weight gain.
- Agitation or anxiety
Spring or summer sufferers tend to be more likely to suffer from insomnia, decreased appetite and weight loss, and agitation or anxiety. It seems to occur more frequently for women, and one study showed a correlation with people who tend to be more agreeable, open and who use avoidance to cope with stress.
The causes of SAD are most often linked to the reduced exposure to sunlight during autumn and winter, which can disrupt the work of the hypothalamus in the brain. And this could cause the following:
- Disturbing your internal body clock (circadian rhythm), which uses sunlight to judge when you should wake up or go to sleep.
- Increased levels of Melatonin, a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland which makes you feel sleepy during the night.
- Decreased Serotonin production. This neurotransmitter carries signals between nerve cells in the brain and influences mood, appetite and sleep.
How Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated
There are a wide range of ways to treat or minimise the symptoms of SAD, depending on how severe the disorder may be. Many of these are changes you can make yourself, but as the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder cross over with other depressive conditions, it’s worth getting professional medical advice to help identify what’s causing your issues.
The main treatments include:
- Lifestyle changes: Including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, regular exercise, and managing your stress levels.
- Light therapy: Using a special light box lamp to simulate sunlight.
- Talking therapies: Including cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling.
- Antidepressant medicine: For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which stop serotonin being reabsorbed by nerve cells, leading to higher levels.
Beating the symptoms of SAD can be as simple as sitting near a window and getting outside as often as possible. This can be as simple as a one hour walk in the middle of the day during winter months. Or if you’re affected in Spring or Summer, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, and stayed in the shade as much as possible.
But if your initial efforts aren’t having the desired result it’s time to look for additional support and help.
Could CBD help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Naturally produced Cannabidiol (CBD) is currently classed as a food supplement, but a number of medical studies and research continue to look at how it may affect the nerve and immune system.
One key area being investigated is the fact that CBD appears to affect serotonin receptors (link to study), which may mean it can increase levels of the neurotransmitter. Which is not only one of the most likely causes of SAD, but also the main result of the most common antidepressants prescribed for severe cases.
Increased levels of serotonin is likely to improve your mood, appetite and sleep, which is one reason CBD has been looked at for insomnia and sleep.
How to take CBD for Seasonal Affective Disorder
The most common option is to use a CBD Oil in the morning and evening to stimulate the endocannabinoid system in your body. You can choose from Full Spectrum oil which contains all of the natural chemicals from the hemp plant to encourage an entourage effect (We offer 4%, 8% and 15% strength full spectrum CBD oils), or a zero THC Isolate CBD oil to ensure you avoid even trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol.
If you want to avoid oil entirely, then we also offer CBD capsules infused with Turmeric and Black Pepper.
In both cases, you should apply 1-3 drops of oil twice a day, or take 1-2 capsules. Although the effect may be felt much sooner, it can take up to a few weeks for your body and brain to fully react to the addition of CBD.
CBD is a supplement, not a medical product, and therefore works best when used in conjunction with other health and wellbeing measures (such as getting more daylight, exercise and healthy eating). You should also consult your doctor before adding supplements to your routine, particularly if you're already taking any prescribed medication.
Useful links for Seasonal Affective Disorder:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – the NHS.
- About SAD – Mind.
- The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association.
For more information on using CBD and other related issues, take a look at our other dedicated guides including: