Do you find that year after year you begin feeling blue as winter approaches?
Do you find yourself with less and less energy as the days get shorter and shorter?
If so, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Need to buy a light therapy device? Don’t miss our complete roundup on the best SAD light therapy glasses.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of depression in relation to the changing of seasons.
Most people suffering from SAD begin to experience symptoms in late fall that increase in intensity as it becomes winter.
These symptoms include feelings of depression, low energy levels, oversleeping and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
What causes SAD?
While the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder is not actually known, there is one major factor that contributes to seasonal depression:
Reduced levels of sunlight
Scientifically speaking, reduced levels of sunlight are responsible for a number of different changes within the body:
- Decreased exposure to sunlight may disturb your body’s biological clock (aka your circadian rhythm) and lead to feelings of depression. This disruption to your internal clock may also throw off your sleep-wake cycle, leaving you frequently fatigued and out of sorts.
- Reduced sunlight is linked to a decrease in the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical that affects mood. A drop in serotonin levels can be a trigger for serious hormonal changes like depression, mood swings, and anxiety.
- When it gets dark, your brain will begin to produce melatonin- the hormone in charge of helping you sleep. The short and dark days of winter may trick your brain into increasing its production of melatonin, leading to increased feelings of drowsiness and decreased levels of energy.
Light Therapy Treatment for SAD
Light therapy, or phototherapy, has proven to be one of the most effective methods of treating seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy is done by exposing yourself to artificial light that mimics natural sunlight in an attempt to offset the effects of light deprivation.
Unlike other types of light therapy that may be used to treat skin conditions, SAD light therapy devices are designed to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) light.
For optimal results, it is suggested you practice light therapy on a daily basis within the first hour of waking up.
SAD Light Therapy Glasses vs Boxes
When deciding what device works best for you and your SAD light therapy treatment, it’s important to know your options.
The most common device used for SAD light therapy is a box, sometimes referred to as a lamp.
These boxes emit a bright, white light that measures in at 10,000 lux (approximately 20 times greater than regular indoor lighting).
Because of this high intensity, it is recommended your sessions last 20-30 minutes and that you remain at least 16-24 inches away from the device at all times.
The pro of using a light therapy box is quicker session times, the con is that you must remain seated the entire time.
The newest device used for SAD light therapy comes in the form of glasses.
These glasses emit a softer, blue-green light that is much less intense on the eyes, measuring in at 500 lux.
Because of the lower intensity, your therapy session should last 30-60 minutes with no breaks in wearing the device.
The pro of using light therapy glasses is that they are portable, the con is that your sessions will be longer.
3 Reasons You Should Be Doing SAD Light Therapy
1. You’ll Feel Better
By doing SAD light therapy every day, you’ll be giving your body the light it is so desperately craving. This increased exposure to light will trigger your brain to produce the serotonin you need to boost your mood and fight off those feelings of depression.
2. You’ll Sleep Better
SAD light therapy is the quickest way to counteract the effect that shorter days and longer nights are having on your circadian rhythm. Exposing yourself to artificial light every morning will help you to reset your internal clock and sleep better at night.
3. You’ll Do Better
Doing SAD light therapy on a daily basis has proven to slow the production of melatonin, the hormone that causes you to feel drowsy and zapped of energy. With increased levels of energy and a boosted mood, you’ll be more productive in everyday life.