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Feeling Depressed? Blame That Hour Of Daylight You 'Lost' By Setting Your Clocks Back

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If you find yourself feeling depressed during this coming week, you might want to blame the end of daylight saving time and the one-hour "fall back" time change, experts say.

That "lost" hour of daylight can be enough to trigger the winter blues, known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD, says Dr. Scott Bea, a Cleveland Clinic psychologist.

"It's very common for folks predisposed to seasonal affective disorder to start to experience sluggishness, feelings of sleepiness, really craving sleep, start to crave carbohydrates, maybe gain a little weight, start to feel a little bit more irritable," he explains.

SAD is a type of depression that can last for the duration of a season, particularly in winter months, with experts suggesting it is linked to changes to the number of hours of sunlight we experience.

A change in the amount — especially a reduction in winter months — is believed to result in some people's producing excess melatonin in their brains, resulting in their feeling sleepy, tired, irritable and lethargic.

It is estimated more than 10 million Americans struggle with SAD to some degree.

It is more common in women, young adults, and in people in northern latitudes where days are significantly shorter in the winter months.

First identified in 1984, SAD was added to the American Psychiatric Association's official manual in 1987 as a descriptor for major depression.

There are a number of recommended techniques for dealing with the syndrome, including exercise, diet and light therapy, experts say.

Bea says an exercise regimen is a good place to start.

In addition to helping the body maintain normal brain chemistry, trips to the local gym or an exercise class provide a chance for socialization and connecting with people, both seen as helping reduce depression, he says.

Light therapy, consisting of a 30-minute daily session in front of a light box with a bright light source of at least 10,000 lux, can also help, experts say.

"If you're exposed, people are exposed, for about a half hour a day to this bright light, about 70 percent of folks who suffer with seasonal affective disorder will actually see improvements," Bea says.

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