Health & Wellness > Natural Health > Seasonal Depression Disorder – How Light Therapy Helps

Seasonal Depression Disorder – How Light Therapy Helps

Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression or SAD) includes light therapy. Light lamps for seasonal depression are easy, inexpensive, and effective.

These tips for using light therapy can help you naturally reduce the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“People with SAD suffer from a lack of sunlight – they are literally ‘in the dark,’” says Dr. Raymond Crowel, Psy.D., vice president of mental health and substance abuse services, Mental Health America, in Quotes on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). “SAD can be devastating for the individuals who experience it. It can rob people of contentment, happiness, energy and overall health.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t have to rob you of happiness or energy! And, you don’t necessarily need to sit in front of a light box for hours to treat SAD. Just reading in front of a light and ion therapy lamp for 15 minutes a day can be effective.

Here are a few tips on using light therapy for this type of depression…

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects more than 10 million North Americans every year – mostly women. SAD is a mood disorder triggered by lack of light during the winter months. The body’s biological clock gets out of sync, and wake and sleep cycles are disrupted. Winter depression often lifts during the spring and summer months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder varies from person to person. Some experience a major mood disorder or heavy depression, while others feel like they have a touch of the “winter blues.”

Symptoms of Seasonal Depression or SAD

SAD usually starts in November – or as early as September – and lifts in March. Emotional symptoms of SAD include feelings of discouragement, fatigue, irritability, or worthlessness. Lifestyle symptoms of SAD include insomnia or too much sleep and cravings for sugar or starchy foods.

Relationships may suffer due to lack of attention or energy; if your partner suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you might find How to Cope With Your Partner’s Depression helpful. SAD is similar to depression in that it makes people feel isolated and alone. Other symptoms of SAD or the winter blues include difficulty concentrating and weight gain.

Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here are several facts and tips for light therapy and seasonal depression disorder…

Light therapy for depression or SAD involves relaxing for an hour with a light box or special light unit. Different types of light therapy treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder include special light lamps (not just your traditional living room lamps), special light alarm clocks, and even salt lamps that provide natural ions. Light therapy, light boxes, or even increased exposure to natural sunlight could help reset the biological clock (and decrease the winter blues). Light therapy is often an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder because it allows more light to be absorbed through the skin.

Some people with depression should not use light therapy – such as people who have photosensitive skin conditions, have mania tendencies, or are taking a photosensitizing herb such as St John’s Wort. Talk to your doctor before using light therapy, and read Treatments for Seasonal Depression Disorder for more info.

The duration of light therapy depends on an individual’s level of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the amount of natural light available, and the time of year. Most people start out with 30 minutes with the light therapy lamp or UV light bulbs, such as a NatureBright SunTouch Light Therapy Lamps.

Remember that it takes time for light therapy for depression to work – though some people feel better immediately. Usually, though, people with Seasonal Affective Disorder can take 2-4 days to feel the full benefits. Some people take longer to see the benefits. For more info about a light therapy alarm clock — so you can wake up with light treatments — click on the lamp pictured.

The side effects of light therapy treatment for SAD can – but not always – include jumpiness, jitteriness, headache, nausea, and skin rash. If these side effects occur, people with SAD can try sitting farther away from the light lamp or reducing the amount of time spent in the light.

Remember that Seasonal Affective Disorder is more than the winter blues! It’s a mood disorder than can be treated effectively and inexpensively – and you don’t have to feel sad or exhausted anymore.

Sources: Oren, D., & Rosenthal, N. (2006) “Light Therapy”; and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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6 thoughts on “Seasonal Depression Disorder – How Light Therapy Helps”

  1. Thanks for your comment, Allison. Light therapy boxes are so easy and effective – it’s definitely worth trying one before getting into the more serious treatments of SAD, such as medications or trips to tropical, exotic holiday destinations 🙂

  2. I have seasonal depression every year so now I’m used to it. I use a light therapy lamp every morning, all I do is eat breakfast with it next to me. It makes a huge difference, I know because when I forget to use it or take it when I visit my family, I feel so tired and sad. Light therapy is a great, easy, cheap way to fight the effects of seasonal depression!!!

  3. actually, the duration of light therapy also depends on the distance between the patient and the lamp (as the exposure to light decreases significantly when further away. Most more advanced light boxes actually have a timer function to compensate for this .

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I’m glad light therapy helps you, Lilly. It really works for some forms of seasonal affective disorder — and it’s great that you only need 15 minutes every day!

    I saw an advertisement for a light box alarm clock, and think that’s a great way to wake up in the morning, whether you struggle with depression or not.

  5. Thank you for this! I use a light box for 15 minutes every day and my symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are much better. I start at the beginning of October every year, before I start to get tired or sad. I’ve struggled with seasonal depression for years.