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A Brief Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder and Terpenes|Terpenes and Essential Oils|rainy window and girl|tree-sun|woman-sleeping in front of window|woman watching tv and popcorn|sad|diet|light therapy|forest pathway terpene|enjoying nature||||


Correlation Between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Terpenes

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that is a subtype of depressive disorder. According to the US National Library of Medicine, SAD is triggered by the changing of seasons. 1 Thus, symptoms typically begin appearing in the late fall and throughout the winter months.

Those who suffer from this type of disorder typically feel much better throughout the warmer months when daylight lasts longer every day. However, some do experience this disorder throughout the summer months, though it is much less common.

Seasonal affective disorder Who Experiences SAD?

Believe it or not, SAD is much more common than you might assume. In fact, somewhere between 4 to 6 percent of individuals in the United States suffer from some form of SAD, and it is more likely in women than men.

While some younger people develop the condition, it is typically seen in individuals who are 20 years old or older. There is also a greater prevalence of the condition throughout the northern part of the United States where the colder seasons last much longer. Additionally, these regions generally receive less sunlight due to being so far away from the equator. 2

SAD Causes

While SAD is still being researched, studies have largely concluded that SAD occurs as a result of an imbalance of serotonin in the brain, which is modulated by and works in conjunction with a few other factors. 3

Low Vitamin D Levels  width=

One of the main causes of SAD is the lack of vitamin D production. It has been shown that vitamin D plays an integral role in serotonin levels. Thus, if you have a vitamin D deficiency, your serotonin levels might be irregular.

A large majority of the vitamin D our body receives comes from sun exposure because there is simply not enough vitamin D levels in our food to provide sufficient vitamin D. Thus, less sunlight and a sunlight deficiency—as is common in the winter—can lead to vitamin D.

Because of this, individuals who suffer from vitamin D deficiency are at an increased risk for SAD.

High Melatonin Levels

Melatonin is a chemical produced by the pineal gland intended to regulate sleep. Thus, if you are producing too much melatonin, you are likely to feel more tired, and sleeping too much can negatively affect your body’s biological clock.

Darkness causes the body to produce melatonin because it is nature's way of telling your body that it is time to sleep. Thus, increased melatonin production in your brain can ultimately make you feel tired and sleepy.

woman watching tv and popcorn

Exposure to Blue Light

Unfortunately, some of these issues are linked to technology. Because many people watch TV, use their computers, and even use their smartphones and tablets at night, this can cause issues with their sleeping schedule and their body's internal clock.

Because these device's screens emit blue light which mimics sunlight, if you are using the devices at night, your body might feel as though it is still daytime and fail to produce the amount of melatonin it needs to fall asleep. This can ultimately cause major issues with your ability to get a good night's sleep and could potentially culminate in SAD.

SAD Symptoms


This is perhaps one of the main symptoms that you might experience when you are diagnosed with SAD. Unfortunately, chemical changes occur which can really drain a person of their energy reserves. 4



Another common symptom is a general sense of sadness. This is directly related to the decreased levels of serotonin in the brain which can trigger early onset of sadness.

Loss Of Interest and Motivation

Another common symptom that you might experience if you are suffering from SAD would be a loss of interest in things that you normally enjoy doing and even a decrease in motivation to do anything.

Problems Sleeping

Another common symptom that you are likely going to experience if you are someone that is suffering from SAD is problems with sleeping. Whether you cannot go to sleep or you fail to get a good night's sleep, you are going to be dealing with a variety of issues when it comes to being able to sleep properly.


Weight Gain

Another very common symptom is weight gain. Those that suffer from this type of disorder typically end up gaining weight due to the decreased energy levels which prompt less physical exercise and activities. Along with this, it can contribute to eating more unhealthy foods to try to balance out the missing chemicals that bad food can typically provide momentarily.

Reduced Concentration

Another common symptom that can be experienced by someone that suffers from SAD would be a difficulty in being able to concentrate properly. A lot of people suffer from an inability to properly concentrate because they are unable to maintain consistent energy levels allowing them to focus on any one thing.

What Helps With SAD?

One of the main treatment options for individuals with SAD is the introduction of light. Light therapy has proven to be effective at helping those who suffer from SAD because it simulates the sunshine the individuals are missing during the winter months. However, a lot of people do not respond well to just light therapy alone.

There has been a lot of recent research that has linked the disorder not only to a lack of light exposure and vitamin D production but also to a lack of terpenes.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are hydrocarbons that can be found throughout nature. These hydrocarbons share a direct chemical precursor to cannabinoids. Essentially, they are aromatic compounds that evaporate quickly to produce a smell. They are organic compounds that can be found in a variety of plants and even some insects. Terpenes have been shown to have a variety of health benefits and may provide essential oils with their scents.

Why Terpene Deficiency Matters

Terpene Benefits  width=

As mentioned previously, there are a lot of distinct benefits that come from terpene exposure. There are various studies that show that individuals experienced reduced stress levels because of a significant decrease in cortisol when they were exposed to terpenes in a forest setting.

There are plenty of different kinds of terpenes that have a variety of medicinal benefits. There is myrcene, which is most commonly found in cannabis and it is known for producing highly sedative effects which can help those that might be experiencing difficulty with sleeping.

Along with this, there is limonene which is predominantly found in the citrus peel and can help boost energy.

There is also alpha-pinene which is most commonly found in pine needles and increases energy while reducing stress levels.

People Are Going Out Less

As people are spending more and more time indoors, not only are they being exposed to less sunlight than ever before, but they are also being exposed to fewer terpenes that are produced by plants. This can render individuals more susceptible to SAD.

How Terpenes Can Help

Improve Mood  width=

SAD is characterized by having a bad mood or feeling down. By receiving more terpenes through the use of essential oils or spending more time in nature, you can potentially improve mood and increase your motivation.

Improve Sleep Quality

Sleep has a lot to do with overall health. Being able to sleep better is one of the best and easiest ways to really reset your biological clock, which can help eliminate SAD altogether or help reduce the negative symptoms that you experience from it.

Various essential oils, such as lavender, that can flood your body with beneficial terpenes can promote better sleep and reduce insomnia. 5 If you are having these troubles use lavender, chamomile, and kava to enhance calmness and bring forth relaxation.


Overall, there are a lot of factors to consider when you are looking to figure out why you might be experiencing SAD symptoms. By combining something like light therapy with essential oils with terpenes, you should be able to enhance the results that you are able to get from your entire treatment.

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