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Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder: Tips for Selection



It is ironic that the coldest, darkest part of the year is when Americans celebrate their happiest holidays. For many, between Thanksgiving and New Year, the weather is anything but "the best time of the year" – no matter what the song of Andy Williams promises.

For some people, the change of season brings more than a shiver. About six percent of the population in the United States suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that occurs mainly in the autumn and winter months. The symptoms are almost identical to the symptoms of a depressive disorder that cause sadness, feelings of hopelessness and excessive sleep. The difference with SAD is that symptoms subside in spring and summer.

The exact cause of SAD is unclear, but researchers have found that people with this disorder have some characteristics:

  • A decline in serotonin, a brain chemistry associated with mood swings

  • An overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that Regulating Sleep

  • And Insufficient Vitamin D Levels That May Be Caused by Lack of Sunlight

Light Therapy: How It Helps Seasonal Depression + What

The main reason for treating seasonal depression is a so-called light therapy that tries to compensate for the lack of natural sunlight during the winter months. Decades of research have shown that light therapy, according to UpToDate, can improve symptoms for about 60 percent of patients.

This is how Harvard Medical School works: the bright light stimulates the retina, the back of the eyeball sends messages to the brain via the optic nerve. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain, which helps to control your circadian rhythms. This helps combat the lethargy and excessive fatigue associated with seasonal depression.

But do not turn on your desk lamp and expect to notice an improvement. Light therapy requires special lights, known as "light boxes," which are about 20 times brighter than your standard indoor light, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A good light box should:

  • Provide 1

    0,000 lux (which is a measurement of light intensity)

  • Filter out UV wavelengths

  • And emit cool-white fluorescent light

You should also consider how and when You want to use it. Various models can be mounted on walls or on tables. Think of a time during your morning routine when you are in one place for at least 20 minutes, like drinking coffee at the dining table or putting on make-up in front of the bathroom mirror. Choose a lightbox model that works with these locations.

An exciting and newer option is a dusk light box. These light boxes are often used as alarm clocks. Half an hour before your alarm rings, these light boxes begin to emit a dim light, and the brightness gradually increases until it reaches full brightness to simulate the sunrise when your alarm rings. Many offer soothing sound options so you can start your day with faux sunlight * and * birds chirping.

If you need help choosing a light box, do not be afraid to contact your doctor. You may have recommendations as well as other tips for calming the seasonal affective disorder.


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