Why We Love Light Box’s (And You Should, Too!)
“you go to work when it’s dark and you come home when it’s dark”
In this article, I will be giving you a brief rundown of Seasonal Depressive Disorder, or SAD, and how people who suffer from it can benefit from the use of a Light Box, also known as Phototherapy.
A quick disclaimer: always consult your doctor before taking any medical advice you find on the internet. SAD is no joke and has the potential to drastically affect your lifestyle if not addressed.
What Is Seasonal Depressive Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a subset of mood disorders in which normally healthy people may experience depressive symptoms in summer or winter. Suffering depressive symptoms during the same season of the year, usually the winter months every year, is a good indicator of the effects of SAD.
SAD is more common in:
- People who have relative with SAD
- People who live farther north or south of the equator where the hours of natural sunlight are shorter
- More common in Women than Men
What causes Seasonal Depressive Disorder?
The common theory among the experts is that SAD is caused from a lack of natural sunlight which can lead to lower levels of Vitamin D, changing serotonin levels, disrupted sleep-wake cycles, and an overall changed “biological clock”.
Although much rarer, Season Affective Disorder can still cause issues even in the spring and summer months.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
- Eating more and craving carbohydrates (my personal winter demon)
- Weight gain
- Mood changes such as depression and anxiety
- Troubles with staying focused and paying attention
Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder With A Light Box
One of the easiest, and safest, treatments for SAD is using Light Therapy according to the Mayo Clinic. But keep in mined the word “treatment” should be stressed and not “cured”.
Using a light box for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder can help drastically alleviate the symptoms by exposing yourself, simply enough, to natural light. Easy enough, right? But whats a sun loving individual to do if you live a good distance away from the Equator and have a limited amount of sunshine in the winter months?
Piling on layers of insulated underwear and snow suits might not cut it for light exposure when frolicking amongst the snowmen. Or worse, if you’re like me, you go to work when it’s dark and you come home when it’s dark. Sadly, I to often end up going days without seeing sunlight.
The solution is simple, I get out my trusted winter companion, the light box. My winter savior. If I could find a proper portable flashlight version, I would carry it everywhere like a Jedi with a Lightsaber.
More Good Reasons Why Would You Should To Try Using A Light Box:
- It is considered relatively safe and has few associated side effects
- It is more suitable for expectant and lactating women who need to avoid antidepressants
- It has been proven as an effective first-line of treatment on its own
- It will allow you to take lower doses of antidepressants (again, always consult your doctor)
- It can be used to increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy or antidepressants
Like all forms of treatment, light therapy has some risks which include agitation, eyestrain, headache and nausea. If you experience any side effects, they usually subside within a few days. They can also be managed by:
- Taking breaks during prolonged sessions
- Reducing treatment time
- Moving further from the light box
- Changing the time of day during which treatment is administered.
It is always important to consult with a qualified medical practitioner before opting for light therapy.
Things to consider before purchasing a light box:
- Brightness – Brighter boxes require less time daily compared to dimmer boxes. Select one that emits the right intensity of light at a comfortable distance – consult your doctor.
- UV light – Light boxes for treating SAD are designed to filter out most UV light. Look for a box that has this design specification. In case of any queries, contact the manufacturer.
- Make sure that the light box is specifically designed for SAD treatment and not skin disorders
- If you are experiencing bipolar disorder and SAD at the same time, you should ensure that you use the light box under the guidance of your doctor as timing is crucial.
Light Therapy is one of the easiest, safest, and effective (and fun) treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder. A proper light box will light up a room during the long dark winter months and help fight off the nasty effects of SAD I mentioned earlier.
I personally get my light box out in October and don’t put it away until sometime in May when I come out of winter hibernation an spend more time out in the sunlight. I only have my light box on for an hour or so in the evening about two hours before bedtime. Any longer or later than that and I have a harder time falling asleep.