Has the weather got you down? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. A significant amount of folks (about 10 to 20%) experience seasonal symptoms of low mood or decreased energy. When symptoms are more severe, it’s often called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Winter is the most common time for SAD (and the focus of this article), but some individuals may have similar shifts during other seasons.
Common seasonal symptoms can include:
It's important to meet with a health professional if you are experiencing these symptoms. Along with their guidance, you may find it helpful to try light therapy.
Research suggests that a big part of seasonal depression symptoms have to do with the changing exposure we experience to light and darkness in the fall and winter months. As days get shorter with less light exposure in the morning, our melatonin (sleep chemical) and serotonin (happy chemical) can get out of balance. This imbalance can lead to feelings of low energy, sadness, irritability, or trouble sleeping.
There may be even more to this serotonin-melatonin story… Folks who experience depression often have lower levels of serotonin- particularly in winter. And folks with seasonal affective disorder may produce higher levels of melatonin in winter months than other people.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of seasonal affective disorder. For example, studies show there is a lag of about 8 weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the onset of seasonal affective disorder symptoms. This delay correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D.
One particularly effective, evidence-based treatment for SAD is phototherapy. You can do phototherapy at home (or anywhere else) with the use of a SAD light box. You may also hear these called SAD lights, SAD lamps, or seasonal depression lamps. Thanks to advancements in LED technology, good quality lights are affordable, portable, and super simple to use. These light therapy devices are thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, in effect easing SAD symptoms.
Light therapy can be most effective when you put these five essential tips into practice:
You can buy a light box without a prescription and you can use them practically anywhere. That’s good news, but there are so many to choose from! We recommend the Aura Daylight Lamp to most folks.* You’ll want to consider at least three things as you shop:
If your symptoms don't improve enough with light therapy, you may need additional treatment. Talk to your doctor about other treatment options, such as antidepressants or psychotherapy.
*We work to share the best products with you. The same ones we use. In this case, we are also an affiliate for this product and receive a commission on purchases.
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