Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder With Massage Therapy

  • Massage Therapy
  • March 11, 2024
  • 4 min read
A woman taking massage therapy from a masseuse.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is recognized as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. One in five Americans are impacted by seasonal change, and that number is even higher in states such as Utah and Nevada. A less severe form of seasonal mood disorder, commonly referred to as the winter blues, impacts an even larger portion of the American public and may be aggravated by the change to Daylight Savings Time.

In this article, we will be looking at the causes of SAD and how massage therapy represents a viable treatment for this common depressive disorder

What causes SAD?

The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder isn’t fully understood by the medical community, but it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. It is particularly prevalent in states or countries where the seasonal change results in significantly less daylight.

A primary theory for the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly. A inactive hypothalamus can affect the production of melatonin in the human body.

Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. In people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels. The production of serotonin may also be effected. Serotonin is a hormone that as a significant effect on your mood, appetite and sleep cycle. A lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter month may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is strongly linked to feelings of depression

Your circadian rhythm, also known as your body’s internal clock, uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up. Lower light levels during the winter months can disrupt your body clock, affecting your sleep pattern and lead to symptoms of SAD.

Some research into SAD has suggested that it is possible that some people are more vulnerable to the disorder as a result of their genes, as cases of SAD appear to run in families.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can be very severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

Massage Therapy as a Treatment for SAD

Massage therapy has a proven record of improving mood and elevating energy levels. Patients looking to overcome the symptoms of SAD can find relief by integrating massage therapy into their health maintenance routine. Shorter days and colder temperatures can leave many Americans feeling depressed and lethargic. Research into how the seasonal changes affect moods in humans show that regular massages improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep and more energy.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with functions in various parts of the body, works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and learning. Massage therapy was also found to improve sleep, specifically by assisting with circadian rhythms, or the body clock.

One of the major issues with SAD is that it is a depressive disorder. A fast developing body of research is documenting the impact of massage therapy for relief of anxiety and depression. In a 2015 controlled study of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy reported feeling less anxious and less depressed by the end of the twelve-week study.

Join One Of The Best Massage Therapy Schools In Las Vegas Today!

At Northwest Career College, we operate one of the best Massage Therapy Schools in Las Vegas and our Massage Therapy Course will teach you the skills you’ll need to apply the benefits of sports massage. The benefits of massage therapy are widely recognized with employment for massage therapists expected to increase by 22% between 2014-2024, with an average massage therapist earning $39,360 a year. Additionally, many massage therapists maintain active, private practices, increasing both their flexibility and earnings.

Our massage student clinic is open seven days a week, for both your and your clients’ convenience, and we offer day and night classes to accommodate your work and family schedules. Our instructors are experienced professionals who will prepare you to sit for either the NCBTMB (National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage) or the MBLEX (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) exams and we are proud of our 100% board pass rate. Call us at (702) 403-1592 to speak to one of our enrollment specialists today!

Ivy Adams
Massage Therapy Program Chair

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Ivy is a proud graduate of Northwest Career College, class of 1999, and has been a Licensed Massage Therapist ever since. Her eighteen years of experience has taken her through an eclectic array of…Read Full Bio