For sun junkies and those lovers of light, the winter months can prove difficult especially if you are in a place that sticks to seasonal stereotypes. Short days, long dark hours, and just a small glimpse of sunlight can make you feel stripped of vitamin D and can even lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It's no coincidence that these letters are a match for a miserable mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as winter depression. The symptoms come on strongly in winter before mostly being evaporated by the sun come the warmer months.
What are the Symptoms of SAD?
Symptoms of SAD include; a persistent low mood, a constant wave of lethargy, irritability and the loss of interest in things that once kept you occupied. Maybe you sleep for lengthy chunks of time or crave all the carbs you can get. SAD feels different to our usual winter hibernation moods. While sleeping later and stuffing ourselves full of Christmas treats are on the cards come winter, those with Seasonal Affective Disorder will struggle to find any comfort or joy in the usual cozy winter pleasures.
What Causes SAD?
While Seasonal Affective Disorder is still being studied, it is generally believed that the symptoms come from a lack of light. Maybe the body produces higher levels of melatonin in the winter (the hormone that makes you sleepy), serotonin may be produced less (which is the happy hormone), and our circadian rhythm is all out of whack come the darker days.
How Do I Sort SAD Out?
Light therapy has shown proven results when it comes to alleviating the oppressive symptoms of SAD. For those who suffer a lot at this time of year, you may also want to combine with other therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, talking therapy, exercise and lifestyle tweaks.
The special lightboxes you can find for SAD therapy beam off a bright cool light that effectively replicate sunshine and make the body feel like its getting a hit of the light it craves. The light that pours out of these boxes is known as lux, and to be effective your SAD lamp should emit at least 2500 lux. Most SAD lamps these days throw out four times that and the stronger the lux, the less time you need to sit in front of it.
SAD lamps only need to be used for a short amount of time each day. You shouldn’t just sit like a lizard in front of the rays. It is recommended to use your light therapy box for half an hour a day, sitting around half a meter away and keeping your eyes open. Read a book, watch TV, scroll your phone – do what you normally do while basking in a beam of sunlight.
What’s the Evidence it Works?
The independent research network Cochrane conducted studies back in 2015 to work out whether SAD lamps were all consumer hype or actually an active contributor to healing the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. While results were inconclusive allowing to low numbers, the evidence seemed to point towards SAD lamps easing symptoms rather than being a cure-all for the winter condition. Further studies from Brown University also concluded that SAD lamps can be super effective at helping people find light during the darkest point of the year.
Do you have any experience using SAD lamps? We would love to hear your comments.