Poor Sleep Patterns and Insomnia Contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder [Interview][Transcript]

sandra_reich_georgia_dow_causes_seasonal_affective_disorderGuests: Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Sandra Reich, M.Ed, is the founder and clinical director of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. For the past eight years, she and a team of 13 therapists have taken a holistic and eclectic approach to treat clients with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy base. She has successfully treated many cases of anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship issues, co-dependency and other compulsive behaviors.
Georgia Dow, MA, has over 20 years of experience in teaching and counseling. With degrees in Psychology and Education, a Master’s degree with Distinction in Art Therapy, she specializes in treating anxiety and stress management for both children and adults. Dow earned a Masters in Art Therapy with Distinction from Concordia University. She also holds a B.A. with distinction from Concordia University and a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from McGill University.

Segment overview: Sandra Reich, M.ED., and Georgia Dow, MA, clinical director and psychotherapist, respectively of The Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression discuss ways to overcome insomnia or poor sleep patterns which can often take a toll on our mental health.

Transcription

Health Professional Radio – Poor Sleep Patterns and Insomnia

Neal Howard:   Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us today. When the days start getting shorter, we get lot less sunlight and that seems to be the norm when the fall hits. But it affects many of us in ways that may not be expected or even understood. Our guests in studio today, Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow, both of which are with the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. Sandra is the founder and clinical director of the center while Georgia is the top psychotherapist with Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression. They’re both in studio today to talk with us about Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, some of the symptoms, and how we can combat this disorder. Welcome to the program.

Georgia Dow:    Thank you so much for having us.

N:   Thank You. Now, you both were here in other segments talking about SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Before I begin talking with you two, I’ve never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. For our listeners who may not be aware of it, what is SAD?

G:    So Seasonal Affective Disorder is known as like the ‘winter blues.’ This is the time when we’re receiving a little bit less light and during that period of the time, our bodies are really affected by that and we end up producing less neurotransmitters that we would before such as serotonin and you end up feeling a little bit perhaps more tired, a little less in motivation. It’s almost like a mild form of hibernation for us.

N:    How long has this been a diagnosis?

Sandra Reich:   I don’t actually know how long it’s been a diagnosis but I think it’s been going on for a long time. I don’t think people realize that it was a diagnosis for a long time and what researchers found is that people who live far away from the equator where winter day lights are very short are very susceptible to this. And you started hearing a lot on the news about taking Vitamin C if you live far away from the equator and making sure to get out in the sunlight. So I think what was happening is we assumed it was depression and we started to understand that the sunlight plays a huge role like Georgia said in circadian rhythms and in our serotonin which as we know the brain chemical that strongly affects your mood.

N:   So basically just getting some more sunlight can go a long way in reducing the symptoms of SAD. Do you ever see cases that are severe enough to warrant a prescribed drug for the disorder?

G:  Yes, sometimes like you want to start by doing maybe some other tools and techniques before you would go straight to thinking about medication. But of course if you are suffering greatly from this and this is something where you can’t get out of bed and your quality of life is greatly reduced – yes – there are definitely some antidepressants that can work exceptionally well to help you be able to handle this and feel more comfortable.

N:   Do you find that there are many misdiagnoses before you finally hit upon SAD?

S:   Well, definitely if your practitioner is not aware of SAD. I think that you have to make sure that you’re speaking to someone who is versed in the psychological challenges that show up for people, because it’s not only that the practitioner is missing it, it’s that SAD mimics a lot of the symptoms of clinical depression. So again you have to make sure that you’re being very curious. Example, is it happening every year at the same time? That’s a big clue because the symptoms are going to be similar to depression. So how would we know? Well, if it keeps happening at the same time of the year, sometimes for example, eating a lot of carbohydrates, it’s very typical in SAD. It’s wanting to over-eat and eat those comfort foods, you want to give your practitioner as much information as possible and then the practitioner’s job, of course is to be very, very curious about what could be possibly going on. Going out and gaining a light box when you have SAD, even if you’re misdiagnosed and you have depression, it’s still going to help you. Getting light in your eyes, is only goanna help you as I’ve mentioned to you Neal, I have a light box, I don’t have SAD but I live in Montreal, there’s not a lot of sunlight in the winter and I find it helps me enormously.

N:   Sandra, both you and Georgia have produced a series of videos dealing with stress and anxiety.

S:   Well Georgia and I got very excited about the fact that the treatment for anxiety and depression is so incredibly effective. We’ve treated thousands of people and they get better almost immediately. And so we thought ‘Well, what about people who a.) There’s stigma to come into the office or b.) Are not in Montreal and they want to get help for their anxiety and depression?’ And we decided to put the sessions actually on DVDs which make it accessible for everyone and the responses been enormous, I mean anxiety is the number 1 mental health issue in North America. So people are really struggling with this and the best news of all is that with learning some strategies, boy it can really change almost immediately. So that piece of data ended up into a series of works and we started doing it from specialty series some things like sweet parenting boundaries and so on and so forth. Just to help people live their best lives.

G:   And I think it’s a really important thing to know is that we deal with a lot of different other practitioners that may have heard about these symptoms but want to be better at diagnosing it and understanding what exactly is anxiety versus depression versus seasonal affective disorder. And so I think it’s great also as a learning tool so that people will understand a little better and then they’ll be able to see it a little more easily when it comes into your office.

S:   So true.

N:   You mentioned physicians better understanding SAD. What type of response have you gotten from practitioners when they see your videos and learn of some of the techniques that you used to better diagnose the disorder?

G:   Well they’re really happy to be able to have different tools and tips to be able to see what could this be because you really want to be able to help all of the patients that come into your room so that they feel more comfortable. And anxiety and depression is often first seen by your physician. Rarely will it be a therapist usually someone who will come in and so a lot of doctors are happy are to be able to say, “You know what, I think that there might be something else that’s happening here.” And it gives you some more tools and tips and being able to help people when they come in.

N:   Do these videos address family members and how to get a support group around you?

S:   Well I guess, they do indirectly because again like Georgia said and what I was about to say to you is that treating anxiety and depression really requires a specialist, it’s a real special section of psychotherapy. So the videos really give that angle, that’s why the doctors appreciate it and I think the family members also appreciate it it’s because they don’t always know what they’re dealing with. So if the family members were to watch the video they’d go, “Oh my God! That’s what’s going on with Johnny. I get it now”. Because the symptoms are clearly, we clearly go through them and we clearly go through the strategies and we also talk about how not to enable a family member. Because it’s easy when you care about someone to try to protect them from the thing they’re nervous about or scared about or depressed about and that does not work well at all.

N:   And where can we get some copies of these videos?

G:   So you can check out the videos, it’s www.anxiety-videos.com and we have a special bundle for your listeners where you’ll get 25% off and you just…anxiety-videos.com forward/bundle.

N:   Great, absolutely wonderful – a deal is always welcome. I’m wondering what are some techniques that you can give our listeners right now to help someone who may be affected with SAD and I’m wondering also how important is sleep in dealing with SAD?

S:   Georgia’s the master of sleep, so Georgia.

N: Georgia, I’m all ears.

G: (laughs) So sleep is so important. I think that with seasonal affective disorder, often we oversleep. We want to kind of stay in our bed where it’s warm and safe and you’re losing that motivation to be able to get out there. So one of the first things is you want to be able to make sure that your timing it so that you’re not going over that 9-10 hours of sleep a night. And then a lot of people that are going through seasonal affective disorder also find that it’s very difficult to go to sleep, to fall asleep and the reason for that is really straightforward. We’re used to all of these different things happening in our life during the daytime that keeps us busy and then at night, there’s just the darkness and our minds and were left alone to our thoughts and often those can be cyclical or worrisome or we’re trying to solve the problems of the world. So it’s also really important to work on your job when you’re going to sleep, is to sleep. And so you don’t want to think about world news kind of problem or devastation or how horrible this is gonna be. You want to stay away from those worry thoughts because those start off your sympathetic nervous system which is going to make you more anxious and the opposite of sleep is anxiety. So if you’re thinking things that are making you anxious, there’s no way that your body is going to let you fall asleep during that period of time.

N:    I’ve heard of some folks having a routine or a ritual that they go through before they get into bed and get ready to go to sleep. Is this something that a person suffering with SAD is going be able to latch onto and is that discussed in these videos?

S:   Oh yes. There’s a specialty video on sleep and it’s called ‘Sleep Hygiene’ actually what you’re referring to and there is a series of strategies that are very important to do for all of us to get a good night, definitely someone suffering from SAD and like Georgia said not to sleep too much and not to sleep too little. There’s so many important things that go on in the brain when you’re sleeping but there so many misconceptions about what to do before we go to sleep. A small example when people say take a hot shower before you go to sleep, actually a hot shower an hour before you go to sleep is a good thing because it’s actually as your body cools down then sleep will come onto you.

N:   Great advice. I’ll keep that in mind before I take a shower and jump right in the bed.

G:   Probably also our use of technology is not great for sleep either. One, is we’re getting a lot of the blue wave light spectrum of light which is telling our brain to wake up instead, it stimulating the system in to saying we’re awake. We want to be able to have that sleep routine that keep us calming down and let the light gets darker and if you have you want to try to keep technology away, I know this is hard but for 30 minutes before you go to sleep so your body can start producing its natural melatonin level and let you feel more calm to that. And so reading a book, relaxing, just being calm before you go to sleep also kind of gets your body ready for now it’s time to go to bed.

N:   And in wrapping up where can our listeners go and get more information about SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression as well?

S:   Yes. So they can call the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression, 514 -777-4530 or take advantage of our offers specifically for your listeners at www.anxiety-videos.com forward/bundle, we’ll give them 25% off of the videos which will be life changing for them.

N:   Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio I’m your host Neal Howard in studio today with Sandra Reich and Georgia Dow. Both of which are with the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression and they’ve created a breakthrough DVD series on anxiety and depression available as they said at www.anxiety-videos.com. It’s been a pleasure speaking with both of you today.

G:   Thank you.

S:   Oh thank you.

N:   Thank you. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.