Winter brings shorter days, less sunlight exposure, and colder weather. Some people are huge lovers of winter and adore the nostalgia of getting cosy in some warm blankets whilst drinking hot beverages. However, these environmental changes can deeply affect some people in a negative way, leading to decreased mood, feelings of sadness, and depression. This phenomenon is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is recognised as a major depressive disorder. SAD can be treated via several lifestyle factors, such as a healthy diet, exercise, and regular sleep. Other patients benefit from taking antidepressant medication. Compounds found within the cannabis plant, namely CBD, are also showing potential in the treatment of SAD.

WHAT CAUSES SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER?

The precise cause of SAD is so far unknown, yet is believed to be partially caused by reduced sunlight exposure. Sunlight plays a critical role in health, from enabling the synthesis of vitamin D to dictating the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This lack of sunlight is thought to prevent a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus from working properly. The hypothalamus is a gland that plays a crucial role within the nervous and endocrine systems, and is involved in regulating body temperature and the release of hormones.

A lack of hypothalamus function may affect the production of melatonin, a hormone released by the pineal gland to lull the body to sleep. Melatonin production is suppressed by blue light entering the eyes, and a lack of light leads to increased production of the hormone. Therefore, people with SAD will experience raised levels of melatonin during the darker months of the year, resulting in feeling tired more often. This alteration of hypothalamus function may also affect serotonin production, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood, appetite, and sleep regulation. Less sunlight can lead to less-than-optimal serotonin synthesis, which can contribute to gloomy mood and depression.

CBD Seasonal Disorder  

SYMPTOMS OF SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

SAD can manifest in a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, lack of concentration, feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, weight gain, feelings of unhappiness, reduced libido, less desire to be sociable, and increased irritability. SAD isn't just confined to the winter months; people who experience the disorder in the summer months can experience symptoms such as weight loss, restlessness, sleep issues, agitation, and decreased appetite.

CANNABIS AND SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER: HOW CAN CBD HELP?

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced within the trichomes of the cannabis plant. This compound has been shown to exhibit numerous health benefits and is known for its anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anticonvulsant properties. CBD affects the body's endocannabinoid system, a system of receptor sites found throughout many different cell types within the body. This system has a profound effect on many other bodily systems and plays a large role in maintaining homeostasis.

CBD may be an ideal supplement for those experiencing SAD, and has been shown to be effective at treating numerous symptoms associated with the disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder CBD  

A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology tested the effects of CBD in cases of generalised social anxiety disorder. Subjects underwent a simulated public speaking event after orally taking either 400mg CBD or a placebo. Subjects who received a dose of CBD experienced a significant decrease in subjective anxiety. The authors of the paper concluded that such results suggest that CBD reduces anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder, and that these effects are the result of CBD affecting activity in the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain. These results show promise in the treatment of the antisocial symptoms associated with SAD.

CBD may also have positive effects on the sleep cycle problems associated with SAD. A 2016 paper published in The Permanente Journal investigated the effects of CBD oil in cases of anxiety and insomnia associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. This case study reported positive effects of CBD on both anxiety and insomnia.

HOW TO TAKE CBD

CBD is available in a wide range of forms to fit the preference and lifestyle of each user. CBD-rich cannabis flowers can be used by those who prefer to smoke and vape raw material to deliver high quantities of CBD alongside very low levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. High-potency oils and tinctures can be taken orally and sublingually, and can be added to many different foods and beverages. Capsules are also an easy option to fit into an existing supplement regimen.

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