The fall and winter seasons are favored by many, however, for some, the upcoming months are the worst times of the year. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is triggered by the change in seasons. Those with SAD are hit the hardest during fall and winter.
It has been determined that the lack of sunlight plays a major part in exacerbating the condition. The Cleveland Clinic was able to compile a few theories as to why that is.
- The shifting of our biological clock. Our biological clock regulates a lot of our inner workings such as mood, sleep, and hormones. Less exposure to sunlight causes the biological clock to shift, making mood regulation more difficult.
- Increases brain chemical imbalances. Serotonin is one of the many chemicals that allow for communication between our body’s systems and is instrumental to our feelings of happiness. Serotonin levels are spurred by the sunlight. Therefore, when there is less sunlight, serotonin levels drop, and mood changes.
- Leads to a Vitamin D deficiency. Our bodies produce Vitamin D with help from the sun and Vitamin D plays a major role in our serotonin levels. Once again, enforcing that without sunlight, there is less serotonin produced, causing our moods to drop.
- Melatonin overload. Your sleep patterns are regulated by melatonin levels. When there is less sunlight, there can be an overproduction of melatonin, making you feel sleepy and sluggish.
Light Therapy as Treatment
One of the most common forms of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy. Light therapy is deliberate exposure to artificial light in order to mimic the effect that natural sunlight has on the body.
Light therapy is performed with a light box. Before purchasing a light box, you should discuss it with your doctor to make sure you choose the perfect one for you. Since light therapy works best by entering your eyes indirectly, you can place the light box on a desk or table while you complete other tasks like eating, studying, watching tv, etc.
To ensure that light therapy is the most effective, you need to consider three key elements: light intensity, duration, and timing.
- Intensity. It is recommended to use a light box at 10,000-lux (the amount of light hitting you) at 16-24 inches from your face.
- Duration. A typical light therapy treatment session is 20 to 30 minutes when using the recommended 10,000-lux light box. But if you are using something a little less intense, you will need to perform treatment for a longer period.
- Timing. When you perform therapy is very important. Most people find that using the light box as soon as they wake up is the best option for easing the symptoms of SAD. However, you should talk to your doctor to find a schedule that works for you.
Light therapy is not going to get rid of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Instead, it is meant to address symptoms and, hopefully, allow SAD sufferers to enjoy the fall and winter seasons a little more. Consult with a trusted healthcare provider to discuss light therapy as a tool to eliminate symptoms of SAD.
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