UAE 'summertime blues': What triggers sadness, oversleeping, weight gain as temperatures rise?

Seasonal affective disorder is a rare phenomenon mostly seen in men and women between 40 and 50 years old


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 27 May 2024, 3:01 PM

Last updated: Mon 27 May 2024, 10:08 PM

Doctors in the UAE are observing rising cases of 'summertime blues' or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression mostly seen in men and women between 40 and 50 years old.

The symptoms for the disorder include feelings of sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, oversleeping, and weight gain.

Shedding light on this phenomenon, experts in the UAE said that "several factors contribute to summertime SAD", but it can be treated.

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Dr Samar Sharaf, a Specialist Psychiatrist at Zulekha Hospital Sharjah said, “Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depressive disorder that occurs during certain seasons of the year. It is one of the common mental disorders. One of the reasons for SAD during summer is that people may have reduced melatonin levels, consistent with long, hot days worsening sleep quality thus leading to symptoms of depression.”

What triggers the phenomenon

Doctors highlighted that longer daylight hours, shorter nights, and high temperatures can also cause sleep disruptions.

“Management of SAD includes proper diagnosis, then ruling out secondary causes of depression, such as underlying medical conditions or drug-induced depression,” Dr Sharaf added.

Dr Samar Sharaf
Dr Samar Sharaf

Some people get a rare form of the disorder, with the depression starting in the late spring or early summer and often ends in the fall.

Girish Hemnani, a Dubai-based Life Coach and Energy Healer said, “In the UAE, we often witness an increase in cases of 'summertime blues' during the summer months. Unlike the winter SAD seen in other parts of the world, our intense summer heat and prolonged daylight hours can trigger this condition. The extreme temperatures along with lifestyle changes required to cope with them are significant factors.”

“Additionally, dehydration and vacation-related stress further exacerbate the situation,” Hemnani added.

Girish Hemnani
Girish Hemnani

Seasonal affective disorder is preavalent in parts of the world where sunlight is scarce during the winter. However, in the UAE, doctors explained why the opposite holds true.

“This phenomenon is generally seen and reported among people in temperate climates and not in tropical climates. It is known as winter depression. In winter the days are short there and a chance to go out in daylight is less. The possibility of vitamin D deficiency is high,” said Dr Shaju George, Specialist Psychiatrist at International Modern Hospital Dubai.

Who is mostly affected

Doctors emphasised as summer reaches its peak in the UAE, the extreme heat mostly force residents to stay indoors for months at a time, depriving them of critical exposure to sun and fresh air, which can lead to a host of health maladies.

George said, “In UAE, during summer, even when days are long enough, people will not get adequate daylight since they are not going out because of the scorching heat. So practically the situation is the same as winter in temperate climate countries.”

“Such a pattern is seen in clients attending our clinics. These patients have symptoms of depression like feeling low, crying spells, fatigue, helpless hopeless thoughts, hypersomnia and craving for carbohydrate rich foods. It is seen in both men and women between 40 and 50. People who are struggling with it should maintain a minimum exposure to daylight either in the early morning hours or late evening,” he added.

An earlier study conducted at the University of Rochester revealed that immersing oneself in green, natural surroundings outdoors can enhance both physical and mental energy levels by nearly 40 percent. Meanwhile, remaining indoors may lead to a feeling of being drained and fatigue.

George said, “Take supplements, including vitamin D. Get help from clinical psychologists and psychiatrists when it gets difficult to manage. Go for medicine if suggested by a psychiatrist.”


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