Light therapy is the exposure of artificial light to provide therapy to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other conditions. The light typically comes from a device such as a lamp or an alarm clock. The light from these devices mimics natural light emitted from the sun, but due to geographical location and whether the sun might not always be shining! In this case, artificial light is able to affect the chemicals in the brain, which influence mood and sleep, just as natural light would.
Have you ever woken up to grey skies and refused to leave the bed? The Winter Blues are similar to SAD, however, it generally does not stop you from enjoying life’s little adventures. It is when symptoms progress and affect regular life and routines, that it becomes SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is classified as a form of depression that coincides with the seasons. Most often, symptoms are apparent in Fall through Winter consisting of low energy and feeling moody. The symptoms are due to less sunlight during these colder months. This is not to say that SAD cannot occur during Spring and Summer. Common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling depressed daily or almost every day
- Lack of interest in past hobbies
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appetite/weight changes
- Poor concentration
- Negative perception of self
By producing bright artificial light, it is able to stimulate the retina and in turn cause regulation of circadian rhythms controlled by the hypothalamus. Think of the circadian rhythm as an internal clock, which determines physiological cycles within living beings! This aims to reduce SAD symptoms and other conditions. When looking for light therapy be sure to consider a few things, such as:
- The light intensity. Most boxes provide about 10,000 lux, however, sunny days measure in at 50,000 lux.
- The duration of exposure may vary depending on the user.
- Previous health history (i.e. eye damage, other mental health disorders)
- Look for a clinically tested light box.
- Inspect for ultraviolet rays and pick one that emits the least!
Light Therapy can be a safe and effective method to reduce symptoms of the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s easy to find a fit that’s right for you and your lifestyle! Remember to speak to a Physician about specific requirements that are needed for your current and previous health records.