‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’, as the name suggests is a kind of depression that is triggered by seasonal change! Although the underlying reasons for such depression may be many but the most important one is the decreased exposure to light, during winters.
Warm sunlight is a bliss in winters!
Sunlight provides the energy that is crucial for sustenance of life on earth, be it plants or animals. It encompasses within itself an almost uncountable bundle of benefits. Let’s explore one of them…
Can NO or little sunlight make you feel gloomy? Of course yes… We might have experienced that, at some or the other point in our life. But if the bad mood persists leading to complete disorientation, and lack of interest in daily tastks, lethargy, mood swings, intolerance and emotional imbalance, etc its not just a gloom but a disorder! It has been given the name as seaonal affective disorder, since it is a kind of depression it needs to be treated.
A seemingly hefty term ‘Circadian rhythm’ is the key to understanding why mood and behavioural changes set in, with little or no exposure to light. In the most simple terms we can say that Circadian rhythm is a timed flow of events or it is a cycle often called as the ‘biological clock’ that regulates, primarily the sleeping and feeding patterns in humans as well as animals. All this is caused by optimal brain wave patterns, hormone regulations and cellular activities.
There are numerous studies that make it evident that this rhythm or a person’s biological clock is crucial for good health and optimal body function.
Moving back to our area of discussion and that is ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’…..Let’s see how does it set in?, what are the symptoms? and to what extent can light be of help?
1. Medications, in singles and in combinations, have been known to treat severe depression cases. However, for temporary types of depression (like the seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD), research has proven that light therapy is an effective first-line treatment, whatever is the severity of the illness. More than 60% of the treated patients respond to light therapy treatment, using a light box that approximates the natural outdoors lights, minus the unsafe UV or ultraviolet rays.
2. The treatment has been found to be ideal to patients who tend to get depressed in the shorter days of autumn and winter. Also, the treatment tends to work better than antidepressant drugs and placebos. More brightness seems to have greater results.
3. Finally, the therapy proves more effective when administered early in the morning rather than late in the day, and is done for fifteen (15) to thirty (30) minutes a day for seven to ten days.
Light therapy is established as the best available treatment for SAD. (NCBI)
How can SAD be identified?
Symptoms for this disorder are vividly seen during autumn or winter. They usually improve, or even disappear during spring and summer. It seems as if your emotions are reflecting the seasons of the world. Symptoms include:
- Feeling lethargic in the afternoons, or generally throughout the day
- Sleepy dring the daytime
- Loss of interest in many activities
- General lack of energy
- feeling to withdraw from the society
- Getting easily irritated by seemingly trivial matters
The reasons behind this disorder are not known, but it is speculated that the change in environmental ambience (i.e. less light due to winter), changes in hormonal balances and the temperature are to be blamed. This disorder comes about during winter or autumn. In rare cases, SAD affects individuals even during summers.
This is why light therapy for SAD is commonly administered to patients. The light therapy lamp actually gives off light that mimics light that’s coming from the sun.
How is the therapy administered?
A light therapy session typically involves a light box or light panel that emits a “full spectrum” of light, which appears white and is as bright as natural light during the summer.
SAD lights are usually placed around 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 inches) away from the patient and are kept on for 30 minutes to one hour. During this time, the patient is instructed to keep his eyes open in front of the light without staring directly at it. After a few sessions, patients may feel uplifted. Regular sessions are prescribed to keep the winter blues at bay.
Light therapy as an alternative to other medications !
Traditionally, treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has standard medical options that include psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication and light therapy. Let’s find out to what extent can ‘Light therapy’ be of help? and what drawbacks do other treatments bring along?
Antidepressants, are not ideal for everyone because of known side effects like insomnia, nausea, and decrease in libido, among others. In people who are susceptible, they sometimes cause some manic episodes. Taking these medications need the approval of a health professional.
Psychotherapy for seasonal depression takes the form of short-term cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where patients are taught to change their negative thoughts and to get involved in enjoyable activities again. This also helps in some cases.
It is Light therapy that touches the root of the problem!
After 20 research studies at University of North Carolina, medical experts noted that treatment using lights is an effective treatment not only for SAD but other types of depression as well. In the studies, participants (from 18 to 65 years old) diagnosed with mood disorders were subjected to different levels of lights for SAD and a combination of bright lights and anti-depressants for non-SAD patients. The results for this form of treatment are ìas strong and striking as those using medication treatments for depression. According to study leader Dr. Robert Golden, they have found that medications using light therapy is an effective treatment not only for SAD but for other types of depression as well.
Will it completely eradicate the problem?
No says mayo clinic. It can be used if you want to avoid anti depressants, or lower their dose. No therapy, not even psychotherapy deals with it completely , not even drugs since this is a recurring form of depression that is, and will be triggered with seasonal change!
Feeding mothers can go in for this, since it may help them leave medications. Nothing in this case is a complete solution, since it light is crucial to human existamce end secretion of cretain hormones and brain activity depends upon being exposed to certain times of day light. So, whenever due to seasonal change this is not available, it might trigger mood swings and caus emotional disturbances. This cannot be compltely got ridden off, since light is a very crucial and natural requirement.
The best part is that you have a very close to natural remedy for treating this problem. No pills, no chemicals, and you can just safely pave your way thorogh the winter and welcome summer with a smiling face!
What to look for, in a Light therapy lamp?
Choosing the right lamp or device holds great importance in your healing. Keep these factors in mind while choosing one.
- Make sure your light box is 10,000 lux. Don’t use a normal lamp because you are trying to mimic the full spectrum of light found in sunlight. Use light boxes made for Bright Light Therapy or “phototherapy.” This means the light box should emit 10,000 lux, which is 20 times the strength of typical indoor lighting. If you have a lamp with fewer lux units, then you may need to use it for longer periods of time to achieve the same benefit.
- Your light box should provide the full spectrum of bright white light but block ultraviolet rays.
- Go in for a medically proven SAD light. Remember that a dawn stimulator is not a medically proven SAD light.
How should an SAD lamp be used? (Proper guidelines)
- To be used after waking up (within an hour)
- Can be from 15 to 30 mins for one therapy session.
- should be kept at least on feet away from the face. Adjust the distance according to your liking, but it shouldn’t be farther than two feet.
- Keep it ta the right angle. (that comforts you)
- Be consistent
- If you have past or current eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or eye damage from diabetes, get advice from your eye doctor before starting light therapy.
We recommend for you the best SAD lamps, that are available in the market. Choose one for yourself and be happy as well as productive, all along winters!
1. Aura Day Light Therapy Lamp
To deal with all your light associated psychological problems, Aura Day Light therapy lamp is one of the best. It is a clinical strength lamp that has been specifically manufactured to treat the outcomes of circadian rhythm imbalance.
A very portable and user friendly device, that will alleviate your mood and not pose any sort of safety concerns.
- Uses patented technology.
- Completely UV free.
- Light output ranges from a minimum of 3,500 to 10,000 lux . It provides a range of intensities to adjust it according to your needs.
- Ergonomically designed.
- It easily rests on a table or floor or wherever you may like . Can be mounted on a wall also.
- It can bend at an agle of 70 to 80 degrees to provide the best angle for light.
- Claims to provide 8,000 hours of light which is enough to aid you for two seasons at least.
- Has an inbuilt timer. It allows you to set time for spans of ten minutes upto a stretch of 60 minutes.
- Auti shut off, when the treatment is complete.
- Size: 8.5X10.5 inches
- Weight: 1 pound
- In compliance with USA volatage requirements
- ETL safety tested and FCC certified. (proven safe)
A high quality equipment that is very popular amng customers. Positive reviews outweigh any sort of complaints that might be very rare and individual specific.
Bottomline: A trustworthy and high quality and effective product . Price is also affordable.
2. Verilux Happy Light (10,000 lux) Liberty Light Therapy Lamp
This lamp has features and durabilty with no replacement costs that will make you never regret your purchase. Verilux has many different models. We will review Verilux Liberty for you. It has been develpoed to therapeutically help you cope with seasonal depression and sadness. Along with uplifting your mood, it will boost your energy and will keep you motivated to carry out your daily tasks.
- Patented Verilux bulbs have been used
- Anti glare to mitigate any dangers fro eye sensitivity (optix lenses used)
- Comes with intercahngeable and replacable lenses (two are provided)
- Easy to use since no tools are required to change the lenses.
- It has two intensity settings along with interchangeable lenses, it be used acoording teh user’s preferences. Can be converted into a highly customised product.
- The 10,0000 lux intensity light resembles natural illumination.
- Portable. Uses very less space. Can be mounted on the wall too.
- 13 x 6.25 x 2.12 inches in dimensions.
- Can be easily tilted and it can be set at the angle taht suits you
- No timer installed in it.
- Claims to provide 10,000 hours of light which is more than other brands.
There are lots of positive customer reviews about the product. The only complaint that has been found, is about people finding the 10,000 lux light a little too intense. This can easily be managed by using the light according to your sensitivity. Use it on genltle modes at first and then accustom yourself upto the recommended intensity for SAD.
Bottomline: A very popular device, which has a wide array of features that no other device is providing. The price is also satisfactory. If you do not need the timer facility, and you can manage the equipment with vigilance, it can be a great choice.
3. Carex Health Brands Day Light Sky
Yet another device that makes its place in one of the best SAD lamps category, Carex has been made to help you cope with winter blues, jet lags, odd work shifts and more. It combines aesthetics as well as sturdiness in its design. It is a well suited equipment that will be an add on to your affice nad home decor despite being of therapeutic use.
- Corrects misalignment of the body clock.
- Manufactured by a well known health equipments manufacturer. A therapeutic grade device.
- Claims to illuminate a wide area with its powerful 10000 lux of illumination.
- Provides maximim comfort by using anti-glare lights.
- Proves that it it 99.3 % UV free. Accurate data provided.
- Product Dimensions: 26.9 x 13.7 x 10.5 inches.
- Runs on USA voltage standards (110v)
- An alternative mode provides 6500 Lux but this will mean you need to spend longer under the lamp to get the recommended amount of light.
- Backed by return policy.
This lamp has been manufactured by an approximately 32 year old health equipments manufacturer. It is very high on customer satisfaction and reliability.
Bottomline: It is better with respect to aesthetics and sturdiness. A value for money device and very affordable for the quality that it provides.