Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months. Light therapy can help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy for SAD can be beneficial. It can make the difference between a winter where you're feeling incredibly down, and one where you're able to go out and enjoy your life. Light therapy is an effective kind of treatment when combined with counseling. Sometimes, therapy isn't enough to combat the winter blues, and that's where light therapy can be a life-changing complementary treatment. Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy can make you go from feeling extremely depressed to feeling like yourself.
Have you heard of using SAD light therapy for depression? It's a standard treatment where you sit by a light therapy box and feel the effects of it on your mood. Depression is treatable with therapy and if necessary, medication, but SAD light therapy can help depression as well.
What is Light therapy?
Light therapy or light boxes help combat the depressed feelings that happen in the winter. During winter months, we typically see less of the sun, and that can cause our mood to change. The light therapy box mimics the sun. Here's how a SAD light therapy should work: it provides exposure of 10,000 LUX of light, and it emits a little bit of UV light as well. Using your light therapy box in the morning is important. Otherwise, it can impact your sleep. That's how powerful it is - it makes your brain think that it's daytime, which brightens your mood. As little as 20-30 minutes of light therapy per day can help you feel less down during the winter. Lightboxes are designed to be safe, but the FDA doesn't regulate them, so it's important to talk to your doctor before using a light therapy box.
Talk to Your Doctor Before Starting Light Therapy
Before starting light therapy, talk to your medical provider about using a light therapy box for light box therapy. Light therapy isn't appropriate for everyone including those with bipolar disorder as it could aggravate symptoms of mania. If you have eye issues like glaucoma or cataracts, it's important to talk to your optometrist before starting light therapy, to make sure that you won't cause any eye damage. Full-spectrum light therapy can provide excellent relief from depression during the winter months, and it's essential to understand not only the benefits but the cautions associated with light therapy. You don't need a prescription for a light therapy box.
Precautions About Light Boxes
Before engaging in light therapy, you need to know the correct way to operate a light therapy box to keep you safe. Here's what you need to know about using a light therapy box:
Considerations When Buying A Light Therapy Box
You must make sure that your lightbox was explicitly built to treat SAD. Some light therapy lamps aren't for SAD, but for skin problems. Light therapy boxes created for skin disorders are different, and they could damage your eyes. Make sure to shop around and get the right light therapy box for your particular needs. You might ask for a recommendation from your doctor for a light therapy box.
How Much UV Light Does the Light Therapy Release?
You might be wondering about UV light and SAD light therapy. It's essential that the light therapy box you use filters out UV rays. The last thing you want to worry about when you're having light therapy is the risk of skin cancer. The lightbox you use should be therapeutic and treat SAD. You shouldn't be interacting with UV rays whatsoever. Light therapy boxes for SAD should filter out UV light, so make sure that you look at the box and read everything in detail or contact the manufacturer of the lightbox if you have questions.
Where Should I Put It?
Your lightbox should be an area where you feel comfortable sitting for a good 20-30 minutes. Light therapy is a positive experience. It's one that is intended to lift your mood and distract you from the dreadful gray that happens during the wintertime. Consider a spot in your house where you feel you can sit and relax and tune out the world. Put it in a location where it can be used efficiently. It could be placed next to your computer or at an end table, or even by your bedside, but it's good to make it easily accessible.
What Light Therapy Does
Light therapy affects brain chemicals that help your mood and other mental health issues. Light therapy is also known as phototherapy. The light from the lightbox is telling your brain that wake up. It's communicating the opposite message of the gray sky outside. You might feel tempted to hide underneath the covers during the winter, but a lightbox can make you feel better about getting up and going. You don't have to let the bleak weather get you down. Your lightbox is here to help you!
Why Light Therapy Is Valuable
Light therapy is an excellent treatment for fighting depression. If you're trying to avoid using antidepressants while breastfeeding, light therapy might be an option for you. You can talk to your doctor about using it as an alternative and see if that makes sense for your treatment plan. Light therapy is used to treat SAD, depression, sleep disorders, dementia, and skin conditions or disorders. It can help adjust to a new work schedule (switching to graveyard shifts, for example.) Light therapy has many uses and treats a variety of mental health issues.
Side Effects of Light Therapy
You could have side effects if you're using light therapy to treat SAD. Some of the most significant side effects occur for people with Bipolar Disorder. You might experience mania, euphoria, agitation, or extreme hyperactivity. Headaches, nausea, and eye strain may also occur. You can manage side effects yourself in many cases if you move the lightbox further away or take breaks during light therapy treatment. If these side effects remain a problem, definitely speak to your doctor and see what you can do to combat them.
It's imperative that you're talking to a medical professional when preparing to use a light therapy box. If you have skin problems, for example, you want to make sure that you're using caution. Other health issues to consider include but aren't limited to sensitivity to sunlight or antibiotics, if you're taking anti-inflammatory medication, and Lupus. Light therapy boxes are available to the general public, but it's good to remain cautious and speak to a dermatologist if there are concerns. When you're integrating light therapy into your mental health treatment, you want to consider all of your health issues. Light therapy should add to your health, not take away from it. Talk to your doctor, and make sure you are safe to use a light therapy box.
Tanning Beds Aren't the Same as Light Therapy
Some people assume that light therapy gives people the same benefit as going to a tanning bed. Tanning beds help don't help treat SAD in the same way as a light therapy box. Light therapy is designed to lift your mood and help you feel better. Tanning beds are primarily used for cosmetic purposes. Sure, laying in a tanning bed can make you feel warm and like you're at the beach, but it's not a mood lifter. Additionally, UV rays in tanning beds can damage your skin and potentially cause cancer. Lightboxes don't have this risk.
Preparing for Light Therapy
You don't need a prescription to buy a light therapy box. You can purchase one online or in a local store easily. However, when you talk to your doctor about it, mention any health concerns you might have so that you can minimize side effects and have an enjoyable experience. There are many lightboxes to choose from, and there's one that will be an excellent fit for you. You might have fun searching through all the different kinds online.
What To Expect During Light Therapy
You're seeking SAD light therapy for a reason. You want to feel better, and the chances are you will. Use the light therapy box for 20-30 minutes daily, and you'll start to notice the difference in your mood. Many people begin to feel more energetic, have higher levels of energy, and maintain a better mood after starting light therapy. You'll start to notice that your depression eases and you'll feel better during the rainy and cloudy seasons. You'll begin to feel less down. In addition to light therapy, you also want to see a therapist. Talking about your problems in therapy is essential to maintaining great mental health. Though light therapy is an excellent complement to psychotherapy, it does not replace traditional mental health treatment.
Light Therapy Doesn't Replace Psychotherapy
Taking care of your mental health is essential. In addition to light therapy, going to see a therapist and talk about your problems can't be replaced. Whether you're seeing a professional online or in your local area, therapy is essential. The therapists at BetterHelp are here to help and support you in the process of recovering from depression, so don't wait to talk to an online therapist. They understand and are educated on how to help you through these winter months and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do SAD light boxes really work?
Yes! Clinical trials reveal that light therapy, also called bright white light therapy, is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder SAD. The most common tool for light therapy is called a light box, which can be used in your home to emit a special bright light. According to the Harvard Health Letter, sitting in front of the light can help stimulate serotonin activity in the brain and decrease depressive symptoms.
Light therapy may also be beneficial in combating the effects of jet lag, as well as for those living with sleep disorders.
Can you use a SAD light too much?
Light therapy is typically recommended for use between 30 minutes and 2 hours a day depending on the intensity of the lux light used. Individuals typically use a wake-up light in the morning. In some cases, light boxes can cause insomnia if used before bedtime.
What is the best light for SAD therapy?
A research study published in the New York Times identified the Carex Day-Light Classic Plus as an excellent choice for light therapy. This 10,000-lux light is deemed safe, therapeutically effective and able to deliver benefits after sitting in front of the light for only 30 minutes due to its light intensity. Any product/brand names or logo are trademarks of the owners.
A doctor can provide recommendations for a specific light box; however health insurance plans typically do not cover the cost.
Can SAD lamps help with anxiety?
Light therapy may be helpful in alleviating symptoms of anxiety. The Harvard Health Letter discusses the role of bright light therapy in increasing serotonin levels which impacts mood. Using a box light may also be helpful for those who are experiencing jet lag or who live with sleep disorders.
Do SAD lights help vitamin D deficiency?
Those living with SAD display lower levels of vitamin D due to lack of exposure to sunlight. Clinical trials have deemed light therapy as an effective substitute. Use of a light box allows the skin to produce Vitamin D during the winter months.
What is the best treatment for SAD?
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include fatigue, change in sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, difficulty concentrating, or feelings of hopelessness.
The Harvard Health Letter staff medical professionals declare that light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy involves daily exposure to bright artificial light as a substitute for the decreased sunlight during the wintertime. Other treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy tailored specifically for people with SAD focuses on developing coping skills for depressive symptoms and combating negative thoughts. Virtual visits with a counselor are available through BetterHelp.
Can you wear glasses during light therapy?
You can wear glasses or contacts during light therapy. However, it is not recommended to wear sunglasses or tinted lenses as light must reach behind the eyes to produce benefits.
Can light therapy damage your eyes?
To protect your eyes, it is important to select a wake-up light that filters out most or all UV light. When using the light box, you should avoid staring directly at it. Before starting light therapy, find a doctor who can provide assistance, particularly if you have existing eye problems or light sensitivity due to medications.
How long does sad last?
To meet the criteria for SAD, one must experience depressive symptoms that impair daily functioning during specific seasons. Most of the time, SAD symptoms appear in the late fall or early winter months, then vanish for the rest of the year. This pattern is referred to as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. Less commonly, depressive symptoms are exacerbated in the spring and summer months, which is known as summer-pattern SAD or summer depression.
Is Lumie a SAD light?
Lumie invented the first wake up light in 1993. They have been developing light therapy products since then that can help with seasonal affective disorder and sleep disorders.
When should you start using a SAD lamp?
The College of Medicine at University of Saskatchewan deemed SAD lamps beneficial for treating depressive symptoms in the winter months. Many individuals start light therapy in the fall and continue into the spring. It would be wise to consult with a health care professional before starting light therapy, particularly if you have any existing eye problems to ensure your safety.
Is the sun good for anxiety?
Yes! Studies have found exposure to sunlight to increase serotonin levels. Higher levels of serotonin are associated with improved mood, as lower levels are correlated with depression and anxiety. This works in the same way that antidepressant medication boosts serotonin levels in the brain.
How do you fight SAD?
There is hope for individuals living with SAD! According to Harvard Health Letter, treatment options include light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medication. It is imperative to find a doctor who can provide health information about SAD and help you to determine the best course of treatment.
Additional strategies for fighting the urge to hibernate during winter months include creating a daily structure/routine that incorporates exercise, socialization and eating nutritious food. There are new studies indicating that positive digestive health has an impact on decreasing symptoms of SAD and other mood disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health conducts clinical trials to discover new ways to treat diseases conditions including seasonal affective disorders.
Who is affected by SAD?
Millions of American adults live with SAD, though many may not be aware that what they are experiencing has a name. SAD is more common among people with other mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. Having a family history of mental illnesses will likely increase your risk for developing SAD. Anyone is susceptible to being affected by seasonal depression. Thankfully, there is treatment available to reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning during the winter months. A doctor can provide you with more health information about SAD and help you formulate a treatment plan.
Can you be diagnosed with SAD?
Yes. It can be difficult at times to diagnose SAD as it may resemble other types of depression. However, a mental health professional can assess your symptoms to see if you meet the criteria for SAD. To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must show symptoms of major depression which may include fatigue, change in sleep patterns, weight gain or weight loss, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness. The symptoms must take place during a specific season for at least 2 consecutive years.
To learn more about seasonal affective disorder, look into health books and online resources that provide reputable health information.