What is Sunset Depression?

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In this blog, we will answer what is sunset depression, and also cover what is depression, what research says, how does sunset affect us, symptoms of sunset depression, 

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Family Counseling

What is Sunset Depression?

Sunset depression refers to the feelings of sadness, melancholy after the sun has set and you feel gloomy and depressed.

‘Sunsets’, a metaphor used in almost every poem to describe endings and we all know that endings are inherently sad. In stories and poems, Darkness carries with itself the fear of the unknown and the anxiety of impending danger. 

But does this seemingly poetic connection also have some significance in real life? Does sunset actually have an impact on the moods of the people? And can the natural phenomenon of sunset lead to a disorder like depression? Let us find out.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that is accompanied by psychological and physiological symptoms that make it difficult to function in daily life. It is estimated that 16 million adults in the United States suffered from depression in the previous year.

Everyone deals with depression in their own unique way. At night, some individuals notice a significant increase in their depression symptoms. They may develop more symptoms, or the severity of their symptoms may worsen. Insomnia can be caused or worsened by nighttime depression, which keeps you awake longer and makes falling asleep more difficult.

What does the research say about sunset depression?

Sundown syndrome is characterized by the sudden appearance of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, confusion, and anxiety in a chronologic fashion, usually during the late afternoon or early evening. 

Marcello Weynes et al. conducted a study on sundown syndrome and symptoms of anxiety and depression in hospitalized elderly. Their objective was to evaluate the prevalence of sundown syndrome in university hospital wards and its relationship with anxiety/depression symptoms, cognitive decline, and clinical and demographic variables. 

They evaluated 70 patients admitted to the Lauro Wanderley University Hospital (HULW), João Pessoa-PB, Brazil. Data collection instruments were the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM), the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). 

They found that 14.3% of patients had delirium, 15.7% had cognitive deficits, and 21.4% and 18.6% had anxious and depressive symptoms, respectively.

How does the sunset affect us?

Serotonin levels drop when you don’t get enough sunlight, according to studies. Lower levels of that hormone have been linked to an increased risk of serious depression with seasonal patterns (also known as SAD), which affects some people.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression brought on by the change of seasons.

Specific scientific investigations on our mood, weather, and environment have revealed that the time between sunrise and sunset has a significant impact on how we act, think, and live.

Factors influencing sunset depression

  1. Biological factors

The truth is that there are several aspects at play when it comes to how changing weather affects your mood, including chronobiological and psychological components. 

Sunlight can help to regulate the serotonin levels for some people. Serotonin is a hormone that plays a major role in maintaining our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. 

Serotonin activity increases in the presence of sunlight, thus boosting our mood. It helps us to feel calm and positive.

During the night, our body releases another hormone called melatonin. Melatonin’s major physiological role is to communicate information about the daily cycle of light and darkness to bodily structures, and its secretion adjusts to night length. 

This data is used to organize functions that are responsive to changes in the photoperiod, such as seasonal cycles. Darkness can lead to the overproduction of melatonin which may impact our circadian rhythm which regulates sleep and energy.

  1. Behavioural perspectives

If you’re a girl living in India, you must have often heard the statement “come back home before the sun sets”. If it’s dark outside, people often prefer to stay indoors for safety purposes. 

As a result of which their physical activities like exercising, playing sports etc. are reduced. It also reduces their interaction time with other people leading to isolation. Less light can have a negative impact on our behaviour, which can then have a negative impact on our mood.

What are the symptoms of depression at night?

Depression during the night can manifest itself in a variety of ways, depending on the individual. The severity of depressive symptoms in some persons may worsen.

Others may feel more alone, despondent, and empty at night.

It’s also possible that you’ll experience racing thoughts and anxiousness, which can make sleeping difficult.

●      Sadness

A feeling of sorrow or emptiness that lasts longer than two weeks is the most prevalent symptom of depression. This sensation can be described as a sense of “hopelessness.” They may believe that life will never get better and that their unhappiness will linger forever.

●      Worthlessness

The disorder is frequently accompanied by emotions of worthlessness, remorse, or powerlessness. People are prone to focusing on personal flaws or prior failures. 

When things don’t go as planned in their lives, they frequently blame themselves. Teenagers who are depressed frequently express thoughts of worthlessness. They may complain of being misunderstood and begin to shun social situations.

●      Irritability

People suffering from depression are more likely to become easily upset or angry, especially over minor or inconsequential issues. This is frequently linked to a person who is experiencing high levels of stress and exhaustion, making it difficult to get through the day. 

Men and women may exhibit irritation symptoms in different ways. Women frequently report feeling enraged one minute and emotional the next. Due to their depression, men may appear agitated or aggressive. Traditional masculine responsibilities in society may also lead to irritability as a result of a man’s inability to “get himself together” and overcome depressive symptoms.

●      Fatigue

People who are depressed frequently lack energy or are constantly fatigued. Showering or getting out of bed, for example, may appear to demand more effort than one can summon. 

Other symptoms of depression, such as withdrawal and apathy, can be exacerbated by fatigue. The simple thought of activity or going outside may make you feel overwhelmed.

●      Guilt

Depression is frequently caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. People who are depressed, on the other hand, may blame themselves for their symptoms. You start saying things like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m to blame for everything.”

What causes depression after sunset?

There are a number of reasons that can contribute to depression after the sunset. You may be able to change some of them, but others will be more difficult to manage.

Rumination

People with depression stay in the past more than the present. They replay old conversations and situations, ruminating about what they could’ve done or said differently. 

Rumination can exacerbate sadness and anxiety because depression generates a tendency to obsess over negative experiences (for example, mentally replaying a disagreement with a partner). 

It’s frequently a primary factor in the development of nighttime depressive symptoms. During the day we have a lot of things from work, school, family, to keep us busy and distracted. 

Not surprisingly, when you’re alone and devoid of distractions, which for many of us is at night, you’re more prone to rumination. Fatigue at the end of the day can make us more susceptible to depression. Though rumination is natural, it can be harmful, especially if it is creating or exacerbating sadness or anxiety.

Nighttime light exposure

Numerous research has been conducted on the link between nighttime light exposure and depression. 

Although light exposure was more than likely not the primary factor, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a link between low-level bedroom light exposure during sleep and the development of depression symptoms in senior persons.

Because young people’s eyes are more sensitive, the risk could be significantly higher. It’s still unknown how light and depression are linked, but it’s possible that exposure to even a small quantity of light during the night disrupts your sleep patterns, which in turn disrupts your mood.

Circadian Rhythm disruption

Multiple studies have found that if your circadian rhythm, or internal sleep clock, is interrupted, you’re more likely to develop depression or have your symptoms worsen. 

Jet lag, working the night shift, and increased light exposure at night, among other things, can disrupt the circadian rhythm. In general, it’s ideal to stay up and active during the day and receive the highest possible quality of sleep at night.

Chronotype

Do you prefer to be an early riser, a night owl, or somewhere in the middle? A chronotype describes how long and when you sleep at night. One study looked at 32,470 females who were on average 55 years old and did not have depression in order to see if there was a link between chronotype and depression. 

They assigned themselves to one of three chronotypes: early, moderate, or late.

Over the course of four years, 2,581 of these women were diagnosed with depression. Women who identified as early birds had a 12 percent reduced risk of depression than moderate women, whereas night owls had a 6 percent higher risk of depression.

How to cope with sunset depression?

  • Try to go outdoors and soak in sun during the day

Even if you live somewhere where the sky is more gloomy in the winter, the best suggestion is to layer up and get outside! Even if the weather isn’t particularly pleasant or sunny, it’s still necessary to be outside during the day to receive some sunshine. 

Spending time outside in the winter not only improves your mood, but it’s also important to preserve social relationships during this time of year. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more difficult, you should still find ways to maintain such connections.

  • Talk to your loved ones over video or phone calls

Simple face-to-face video communication can brighten your day and release hormones and endorphins that make you feel good.

  • Have ample light indoors

You can also purchase light boxes that produce light. Artificial light is exactly as effective as natural sunshine in terms of stimulating your brain.

If you’re interested in light treatment, talk to your doctor. They can advise you on what you might require to assist you to get through the dreary winter months without sunlight. 

For severe cases of depression, we recommend you to seek professional help.

Conclusion

After sunsets, it’s easy for our moods, especially when the psychological part is impacted, to give us feelings of depression. Remembering that it’s simply a temporary situation can help us set objectives and desires for when we do get more sunlight in our lives. Remember that after every sunset, there awaits a sunrise.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): What is Sunset Depression?

Is Sunset depression a thing?

Seasonal depression, also known as a seasonal affective disorder, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year and is usually associated with seasonal variations. This seasonal mood shift occurs for most people when summer closes and daylight fades, and then improves in the spring.

Why do I get anxious at sunset?

Anxiety that worsens in the evenings can be caused by a variety of factors, including a negative association with bedtime, a lack of distraction pushing you to focus on your anxiety, or simply being exhausted from the day.

Why does gloomy weather make you depressed?

Gloomy weather makes you depressed because there is not enough sunlight, sunlight helps up in emotional regulation. When the weather is gloomy, it often lowers our serotonin production leading to a negative or depressed mood. If the weather and depressed feelings persist, it can lead to clinical depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Why do Grey skies make me sad?

Grey skies make you sad because there is lower amounts of sunlight present and that leads to lower levels of serotonin that is known to be the happy hormone and makes you feel sad and depressed. 

Why do I feel sad when the weather changes?

When the weather changes there is usually a lower amount of sunlight in the seasons of fall and winter which can often lead to depression. This happens because lower amounts of sunlight often affects the circadian rhythms and lead to gloomy, sad, and depressed feelings. There is also a drop in your serotonin levels which majorly affects your mood and plays a pivotal role in SAD. 

Does weather affect mental health?

Yes, weather has a major impact on our mental health. Weather and climate are often causes of anxiety in people. During extreme weather or times of natural disasters like cyclones, tornadoes, etc., people get affected on various levels including mental health being severely impacted and psychological first aid and other interventions can be helpful.

References

How to cope with nighttime depression

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression-at-night#symptoms

Bad mood rising https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/columbus/weather/2020/11/03/bad-moon-rising–how-the-sun-setting-early-affects-us

Why Am I depressed only at night?

https://www.verywellmind.com/why-am-i-depressed-only-at-night-1066892

Silva, Munoz, Frade, et.al. (2017) Sundown syndrome and symptoms of anxiety and depression in hospitalised elderly

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710684/

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