SAD lights: do they work? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that occurs during certain seasons of the year. Seasonal affective disorder causes feelings of depression in people who are normally perfectly happy at other times of the year.
Although the disorder is commonly associated with the winter months and is known as the “winter blues”, some people also suffer from it during the summer.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is thought to be caused by the effects of shorter daylight hours and the repercussions this has on our body clocks. Light gives the human body important clues that regulate essential bodily functions such as sleep patterns and appetite.
The internal daily cycles that govern our life are known as Circadian Rhythms and when they are thrown out of kilter, we soon begin to suffer unwanted physical effects.
For many people, the disruption to sleep patterns caused by a long haul flight is bad enough, but those suffering from seasonal affective disorder can suffer very similar effects over many months as opposed to a few days.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Sleep problems are a common symptom of seasonal affective disorder — patients typically have difficulties sleeping at night, but are exhausted during the day.
The disruption to normal sleep patterns can cause all kinds of associated symptoms such as depression, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, withdrawal from family and friends, loss of sex drive, and cravings for sugary and starchy foods, which can also lead to weight problems.
What is the Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder?
For many years, those suffering from seasonal affective disorder were treated with medications to alleviate the symptoms, but further research into the condition has shown that light therapy can be a very effective treatment for SAD patients, particularly when used at the beginning of the day.
SAD Lights: Do They Work?
One of the main reasons seasonal affective disorder is far more prevalent during the winter is due to a lack of natural daylight. Exposure to daylight increases the levels of Serotonin in our body, whereas a lack of natural light increases the levels of Melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep at night.
Light therapy can involve wearing a light visor or spending time in front of SAD light boxes. There are many different types of SAD lights available, from desk lamps to wall lights.
Such devices produce very bright light intensity measured in lux — the higher the lux, the brighter the light.
The artificial light is designed to artificially increase levels of natural light for those suffering from the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
Exposure to high levels of light stimulates the brain to produce more serotonin, which helps to lift mood and improve sleep patterns.
SAD Lights: Do They Work for Everyone?
SAD lights are not suitable for everyone and you should always seek medical advice before trying light therapy as bright light can be harmful to those with eye conditions, anyone suffering from epilepsy, and those taking certain types of medication.