Have you been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? If so, you know it's no joke.
SAD is a common cycle of depressive symptoms that tend to surface during the fall and winter months and fade during the spring and summer months. Symptoms do surface during spring and summer for some, but much less often.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by cognitive symptoms including a lack of energy, mood issues and a lack of motivation. However, nootropics for SAD may enhance cognition to counteract some of these symptoms.
Read on for more information on SAD, cognition, and which nootropics may help ease your mind.
How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Impact Cognition?
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be debilitating. Actually, it has shown to impact almost every aspect of human cognition including mood, sleep, energy, motivation and memory.
Make no mistake, SAD is a seasonal subtype of major depression that should not be taken lightly. You may have SAD if you have been experiencing seasonal cycles of major depressive symptoms for two years or more. But here's how it affects cognition specifically.
Sleep and Energy
Sleep and SAD are intimately connected in the human brain. Specifically, the sleep hormone melatonin has a lot to do with why many of us experience depression every time the seasons change.
You see, when the seasons change, the days also become shorter in the northern hemisphere. They are shortest closer to the winter solstice during December, January and February. And it just so happens that Seasonal Affective Disorder is most prevalent during these three months.
The Circadian Rhythm
It's no coincidence. Light halts the secretion of melatonin and increases serotonin levels in the brain. When this happens, we know to wake up or stay awake.
On the other hand, when it gets dark, our brains produce melatonin and our serotonin levels drop. Thus, we may lose energy and start to feel tired. This cycle is otherwise known as our circadian rhythm.
So when the days become shorter, it can mess with our circadian rhythm by increasing melatonin and reducing serotonin at the wrong times throughout the day. This can cause hypersomnia during the winter months and insomnia during the summer months. It can also lead to an overall lack of energy.
Actually, studies show that those affected by SAD experience different delayed signals in the brain in response to changes in seasons compared to healthy people.<1>
"For people with SAD, the circadian signal that indicates a seasonal change in day length has been found to be timed differently, thus making it more difficult for their bodies to adjust."<2>
There you have it. And as a result, we can speculate that boosting energy may help us counteract sleep and energy issues linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This may be done by balancing serotonin and melatonin in the brain, especially for those who are predisposed to SAD via the off-timing of their circadian signal.
Mood and Stress
The mood may be the most affected part of cognition when it comes to Seasonal Affective Disorder. After all, depression is a mood disorder and SAD is a type of depression.
Mood-related symptoms linked to summer and winter versions of SAD include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Social isolation
- Violent episodes
But how are these symptoms represented in the brain? Well, mood imbalance is characterized by an imbalance of serotonin along with dopamine, melatonin and the peptide neurohormone corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).<3> So, balancing these chemicals may help reduce mood-related symptoms of SAD.
Not to mention, stress can exacerbate mood issues. Chronic stress is marked by high levels of cortisol, which can lower serotonin levels. Hence why reducing the stress hormone cortisol might help us fight SAD mood symptoms as well.
Motivation is shaped by the secretion or lack of secretion of dopamine in the brain. However, depression can inhibit the release of dopamine, which can ultimately reduce motivation.<4>
Since SAD is a seasonal subtype of depression, it, too, manipulates dopamine and decreases motivation. This can lead to various other negative symptoms including overeating and weight gain.
And so, boosting the secretion of chemicals like dopamine may help improve motivation during Seasonal Affective Disorder. Actually, higher levels of dopamine may even help elicit the benefits of light exposure treatment on SAD.
Light exposure treatment is a proven effective treatment for SAD because it supplies melatonin, increases dopamine and provides vitamin D.
However, you can also use a wholesome, natural multivitamin to supplement your low vitamin D levels.
For example, Performance Lab® Whole-Food Multi is a nature-identical multivitamin that supplies vitamin D among other vital nutrients for optimized health.
Studies show Seasonal Affective Disorder can have a negative impact on spatial memory and learning. So, we can speculate that enhancing spatial memory benefits memory impairment caused by SAD.
For example, acetylcholine is a key neurotransmitter involved in the encoding necessary for optimal memory performance.<5> Memory also involves dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine secretion.
But certain nootropics support the production of acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Thus, they may help counteract memory impairment caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Nootropics for Seasonal Affective Disorder can enhance cognition, which may ease symptoms of SAD. Let's discuss the research.
**Make sure to consult your doctor before combining nootropic supplements with antidepressants and other medications.
L-Theanine is an age-old herb present in green and black tea. It's generally known to induce a sense of calm concentration.
And while there is no research on L-Theanine for Seasonal Affective Disorder thus far, there is some research on it for treating depression. As such, we think it may also help with cognitive symptoms of SAD.
For example, one study tested 20 male and female patients who had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. The patients were assigned to take 250 mg of L-Theanine per day along with their normal prescribed medication.
Results showed L-Theanine is safe and effective for symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep issues and other cognitive side effects of MDD. But seeing as this was an open-label study, researchers call for more studies using a placebo group.
Citicoline has shown promise for helping reduce symptoms of depression in patients with Major Depressive Disorder. So, we think it may help soothe symptoms of SAD as well. Specifically, one study examined the difference between remission in 50 patients with MDD.
They were split up into two groups. One group took 100 mg of citicoline twice per day alongside their antidepressant and the other took a placebo alongside their antidepressant. Both groups used the same main medication.
After six weeks, the groups who took citicoline had a much higher "rate of remission" than the placebo group. This may be partially due to the support of citicoline for acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. And since Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subtype of Major Depression, citicoline may help relieve cognitive symptoms of SAD alongside the right antidepressant.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT)
The amino acid L-Tyrosine is a precursor to several chemicals linked to depression. For example, it converts into dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain. NALT is a more bioavailable form of L-Tyrosine.
Interestingly, one study showed L-Tyrosine may be specifically helpful for those with dopamine-dependant depression (DDD).<6> DDD is mainly caused by dopamine depletion in the brain. However, the study showed L-Tyrosine boosted dopamine levels to soothe cognitive symptoms of DDD, including sleep trouble.
All in all, we can speculate L-Tyrosine may benefit those who experience cognitive symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder when they stem from a dopamine deficiency. But we would like to see more research on L-Tyrosine for DDD and SAD.
Rhodiola rosea is known to initiate anti-stress effects by buffering stress hormones like cortisol. Actually, an overview of current research specifically states it may benefit those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.<10> Not to mention, multiple studies show it can help with cognitive symptoms of depressive disorders.<7>[<8><9>
For instance, one study tested patients struggling with depression. The patients were separated into three groups. One group took a placebo twice daily, one group took 340 mg of Rhodiola twice daily, and the other took 680 mg of Rhodiola twice daily.
After six weeks, results showed patients in both groups taking Rhodiola ended up improving symptoms of depression and emotional stability. Overall, Rhodiola rosea seems quite promising for soothing cognitive symptoms of SAD.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for Seasonal Affective Disorder help balance hormones and neurotransmitters to relieve symptoms of SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can elicit serious cognitive symptoms including major problems with motivation, mood, memory, sleep and energy. However, the Mind Lab Pro® Universal Nootropic™ contains a wholesome stack of 11 natural ingredients combined to enhance cognition for 100% Brainpower™, which may help relieve SAD symptoms.
*Keep in mind: nootropics are not considered antidepressants and should not be used in place of antidepressants.
Instead, nootropics help to boost cognition, which involves some of the same neural networks and chemicals linked to SAD. Hence why we speculate they may help relieve cognitive symptoms of SAD.
- Teicher MH et al. Circadian rest-activity disturbances in seasonal affective disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;54(2):124-30.
- Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015; 2015: 178564.
- Wehr TA. Seasonal vulnerability to depression. Implications for etiology and treatment. Encephale. 1992 Sep;18 Spec No 4:479-83.
- Garcia-Arocena D. HAPPY OR SAD: THE CHEMISTRY BEHIND DEPRESSION. The Jackson Laboratory.
- Hasselmo ME. The Role of Acetylcholine in Learning and Memory. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec; 16(6): 710–715.
- Mouret J et al. [L-tyrosine cures, immediate and long term, dopamine-dependent depressions. Clinical and polygraphic studies]. C R Acad Sci III. 1988;306(3):93-8.
- Iovieno N et al. Second-tier natural antidepressants: review and critique. J Affect Disord. 2011 May;130(3):343-57.
- Jun J Mao et al. Rhodiola rosea therapy for major depressive disorder: a study protocol for a randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial. J Clin Trials. 2014 Jun 20; 4: 170.
- Jun J. Mao et al. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2015 Mar 15; 22(3): 394–399.
- Bangratz M et al. A preliminary assessment of a combination of rhodiola and saffron in the management of mild–moderate depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2018; 14: 1821–1829.