The winter is long in many parts of the United States. Not only are students trying to stay warm in many locations, but their bodies are craving sunlight. Some children need to get up and go to school when it is still dark outside, or leave buildings as the sun is setting. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a reality for students and can impact how they learn when at school.
Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children
Children may be trying to cope with SAD and we may not recognize it. There is no specific diagnostic test that can be done at this time. Common symptoms that may be seen with kids are being tired, extreme fatigue, depression, crying spells, irritability, less social, difficult time concentrating, and poor sleep. Typically these are seen each autumn and last until spring. During the darkest months, kids may have more difficulty in regions further away from the equator where sunlight times change more drastically.
When parents and teachers see a pattern that goes along with the seasons and a child is having a difficult time, it may be necessary to look at ways to help them. School therapists may talk with kids and see how they are feeling. Older children in middle and high school need to have a person they trust. If SAD continues, kids may see decreases in their grades, self-esteem, and feel more isolated and lonely. The fear with this is going into a darker depression and feelings of suicide happening.
Benefits of Light Therapy for All Students
The symptoms of SAD are triggered by the lack of light. Individuals who are dealing with it benefit from light therapy. Full Spectrum Lighting is starting to be used in some classrooms because it replicates the brightness of natural daylight. The light within the room helps to rejuvenate students and others in those classrooms. It gives their bodies a sense that it is time to be awake and stay focused, and they are able to concentrate more. When you are not struggling with being tired, it often helps the mood of other individuals along with those that have SAD.
School districts within the northern parts of the country, or that have a lot of rainy months, may want to investigate the use of Full Spectrum Lighting during the darker times of year. If students and educational professionals are more energized by the lights, the cost will be well worth it in the end. Budgets are being made now and this is something many schools may want to investigate for future use.