As the temperatures fall and the days draw in, it’s not uncommon to start to get a case of the winter blues. In some cases, this is not something to be brushed off. The lack of light can have profound effect on our mood sometimes leading to a depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With symptoms including a persistent low mood, irritability, lethargy and cravings, sufferers will find these most severe in the dark months of December, January and February. However help is at hand in the form of light therapy.
What is light therapy?
Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder by exposure to artificial light. Exactly how it treats depression has not been fully established, however, research suggests that it works by re-setting your biological clock timing - which controls the daily rhythms of body temperature, hormone secretion, and your sleep patterns too.
What does it involve?
Doctors suggest investing in an official research-tested rig, large white light box – a bright lamp that mimics natural outdoor light. Although it’s understood to be most effective when you used first thing in the morning, some patients find using the light box in the evening before bed beneficial. The light box must be positioned above your eyes in order to be effective and can be used for anything between 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the patient.
How quickly will I see results?
Response to this therapy usually occurs in 2 to 4 days, but it may take up to 3 weeks of light therapy before symptoms of SAD are relieved. If these symptoms of depression do not improve, or if they become worse, it is important to follow up with your doctor or therapist.
Are there any other options?
A simpler and more economical solution is to buy a dawn simulator - a device that will gradually increase the light in your bedroom in the morning, while you are still asleep. These bedside lamps are designed to gently wake you from sleep as opposed to a blaring alarm that can unbalance your hormones and increase levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. Not restricted to SAD sufferers, dawn simulators are also credited with increasing athletic performance, enhancing cognitive performance and lightening moods.