Is Daylight Saving Time to Blame for Seasonal Depression?

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iStock

The precise root cause of seasonal depression has eluded scientists for years. Now researchers think they’ve found the answer: daylight saving time. They published their report in the journal Epidemiology.

Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 1.6 billion people across the globe. Its symptoms mirror those of generalized depression; what differentiates SAD is the timing of its onset, which coincides with winter’s shorter days and long, dark nights.

We know that sunlight, or the absence of it, has a powerful effect on our bodies. But scientists have yet to find a definitive physiological link between darkness and SAD, a fact that makes some wonder if there aren’t other variables at play.

Previous studies have found a relationship between the shift from daylight saving into standard time and other health problems, but they had not looked specifically at the transition’s effect on depression. To get a better idea, an international team of researchers looked at Danish hospital intake records from 1995 to 2012, including 185,419 diagnoses of depression.

As expected, they saw an increase in hospital admissions for depression as winter descended. But that increase spiked at one particular time: the month immediately following the changing of clocks.

The researchers controlled for variables like day length and weather, which they say confirms that the 8 percent rise in depression diagnoses was not a coincidence.

And while their study focused on people with severe depression, the authors say the time shift likely affects “the entire spectrum of severity."

Though the study did not identify the mechanism responsible for time change–related depression, the researchers believe it may have something to do with the way daylight saving manipulates our hours of light and dark. Danish daylight saving protocol steals an hour of daylight from the afternoon and moves it to the early morning—a time, the authors say, when most people are indoors anyway.

"We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark," co-author Søren D. Østergaard of Aarhus University Hospital said in a statement.

Then there are the psychological effects. In changing the clocks, we are forced to acknowledge the arrival of months of darkness, a realization that Østergaard says “is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect.”

Fortunately, while we still don’t fully understand the causes of SAD, we have found effective treatments. If you find yourself depressed as the year winds down, talk to your doctor and look into a therapeutic light box.

The Ohio State Fair Is Hosting a ‘Sensory Day’ for Individuals With Autism

Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

The Ohio State Fair has been a local tradition since 1850, and this year, fair organizers are trying something different. On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, the Columbus, Ohio, fair will offer a sensory-friendly morning for people with autism or other conditions that make them vulnerable to sensory overload, WOWK reports.

State fairs are normally filled with flashing lights, screaming children, and loud music—all factors that could be overwhelming for some people on the autism spectrum. That means many kids and their families are forced to stay home and miss out on what would otherwise be a fun experience because of the potential for sensory overload.

This summer, extra-sensitive guests will have an opportunity to attend the fair in a safe, inclusive environment. The Ohio State Fair teamed up with OCALI (the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) to remove or reduce any potential sensory triggers. Rides will run without the regular loud music and flashing lights, and if riders ever feel overwhelmed, they can take a break in the fair's air-conditioned quiet room. There they'll find low-tech and mid-tech activities, like fidget devices, that they can use to wind down.

Another way families can help kids with autism feel more comfortable at the fair is by preparing them for the trip. OCALI has written up a document that caretakers can use to walk their children through the day ahead, with full-color photos to illustrate each attraction. Anyone can access it for free here [PDF].

This year's fair in Columbus will follow the example of several other fairs and amusement parks that have made their attractions more inclusive for autistic guests in recent years. The State Fair of Texas offered its first sensory-friendly morning in 2018, and Sesame Place in Pennsylvania recently became a certified autism center.

The 2019 Ohio State Fair opens on July 24 and will run through August 4.

[h/t WOWK]

What Is the Difference Between Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

YuriS/iStock via Getty Images
YuriS/iStock via Getty Images

When temperatures begin to climb, many of us can find ourselves growing physically uncomfortable. Indoors or out, warm weather can make us lethargic, sweaty, and nostalgic for winter. There are differences, though, between heat exhaustion—a precursor to more serious symptoms—and heatstroke. So what are they? And how can you treat them?

Heat exhaustion happens when the body begins to overheat as a result of exposure to excessive temperatures or high humidity. (Humidity affects the body's ability to cool off, because sweat cannot evaporate as easily in humid weather.) Sufferers may sweat profusely, feel lightheaded or dizzy, and have a weak or rapid pulse. Skin may become cool and moist. Nausea and headache are also common. With heat exhaustion, it’s necessary to move to a cooler place and drink plenty of fluids, though medical attention is not often required.

If those steps aren't taken, though, heatstroke can set in. This is much more serious and involves the body reaching a dangerous core temperature of 104°F or higher. People experiencing heatstroke may appear disoriented or confused, with flushed skin and rapid breathing. They may also lose consciousness. While heat exhaustion can be treated and monitored at home until symptoms resolve, heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires prompt attention by a health professional. Until help arrives, heatstroke should be treated with cool cloths or a bath, but sufferers should not be given anything to drink.

Although young children and those over the age of 65 are most susceptible to heat-related health issues, anyone can find themselves having a reaction to warm temperatures. If you’re outside, it’s best to drink plenty of fluids, wear light-fitting clothing, and avoid being out in the afternoons when it’s warmest. Because sunburn can compromise the body’s ability to cool itself, wearing sunscreen is also a good idea.

While it’s not always possible to avoid hot or humid weather, monitoring your body for symptoms and returning to a cool space out of the sun when necessary is the best way to stay healthy. If you have older relatives who live alone, it’s also a good idea to check on them when temperatures rise to make sure they’re doing well.

[h/t WWMT]

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