Do SAD Lamps Work? Here’s How Light Therapy Lamps Help (Tips To Choose The Right SAD Lamp)
If you’ve heard of ‘winter blues’, then you must be aware of the major depressive disorder known as a seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder or simply SAD is a condition where you experience sadness and depressive-like symptoms when the seasons change.
Mostly, SAD affects people during the fall and the winter season where sunlight is scarce and days are shorter. Seasonal affective disorder is more common in young adults and women.
Light therapy is one of the most common treatments used to ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). During light therapy, SAD lamps or lightboxes are used to replace sunlight with artificial light.
Light therapy helps signal your brain to produce less melatonin, the hormone that is linked to sleep and mood.
Let’s take a look at how seasonal affective disorder affects us, how SAD lamps fit in, and some tips to choose the right light therapy lamp for you!
An Overview On Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
It’s not that uncommon to experience the winter blues and because of the depression-like symptoms, SAD tends to leave a larger impact on our daily lives if not addressed the right way.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a test to determine whether or not one struggles with SAD, however, by understanding the symptoms (that usually occur in the winter months), you can determine your condition.
The most common symptoms of SAD can include low mood, low energy, lack of interest in activities, social withdrawal, feeling irritability, having suicidal thoughts (in severe cases). Other symptoms that can help differentiate SAD from depression can be:
- Sleeping more than usual
- Eating more carbohydrate-rich foods
- Overeating and weight gain
- Feeling sad and worthless nearly every day
- Constant fatigue and tiredness
Why Do You Feel SAD?
The causes why someone experiences SAD are mostly unknown and unclear, however, according to research, some common factors that can contribute to your seasonal affective disorder can include:
- High Melatonin: When your melatonin levels are high, then you can experience SAD. Melatonin is released during nighttime when our brains tell our bodies to sleep. During winters, this can happen more frequently, hence your SAD.
- Internal Clock Imbalance: Our bodies use the sunlight to regulate themselves and our internal functions like waking up and going to sleep. During winters, our internal clock can be disrupted and can cause SAD or depressive-like symptoms.
Don’t worry, treatment for SAD is available!
With light therapy, artificial light is produced that can help regulate your body clock, produce more serotonin, control the production of melatonin, and improve your mood significantly.
Light therapy exposes you to bright light for at least four hours a day in an interval of one to two hours. The lights used in light therapy lamps are usually ten times brighter than normal home lighting.
Do SAD Lamps Work?
According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, light therapy lamps or SAD lamps can help ease the symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder by almost 80%. However, light therapy lamps are only a short-term solution. SAD lamps may help ease your symptoms but you might still feel depressed in the next season.
SAD lamps work by stimulating artificial sunlight that helps your brain release serotonin, the feel-good hormone that also helps in improving your mood. Experts believe that using light therapy lamps or SAD lamps when daylight hours are short works best as these light lamps can help adjust your circadian rhythm.
Other than easing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, SAD lamps can also be used to relieve symptoms of dementia, sleep disorder, and even jet lag.
How Does SAD Lamps Help?
SAD lamps are designed to mimic the sunlight, so using these lamps can not only help you regulate your sleep cycle but can also help increase Vitamin D in your body. Keep in mind that SAD lamps might take a few days to work, so be patient.
If you’re using light therapy lamps at home, then make sure the SAD lamp you choose is designed to treat SAD.
To use SAD lamps, you need to sit near the lamp (50 cm away) with your eyes open for at least one to two hours every day. The distance between you and the SAD lamp depends on the intensity of light (the recommended brightness of the lamp is 10,000 lux).
During light therapy, it is suggested that you sit or stand where the light falls on your face but not directly in your eyes.
Other tips to cope with seasonal affective disorder, other than using a SAD lamp, can be:
- Going to bed early and waking up early
- Spending time outside, especially in the morning
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and sugary foods
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day
- Seeking help from a professional
You can also try eating nutritious foods and avoid carbohydrates-rich foods. Your therapist may also recommend some antidepressants to control your symptoms, however, make sure you consult with a physician first before taking medications as many medications may have side effects.
Choosing The Right SAD Lamp
If you’ve decided to buy a SAD lamp, then you need to keep some things in mind before choosing one.
1. Consult with your doctor first.
Most light therapy lamps have filters to remove the harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, still, you need to consult with your doctor before choosing a SAD lamp, especially if you’re light-sensitive, have conditions such as bipolar disorder, or glaucoma, and have sensitive skin.
2. Look for a lamp with the right brightness.
As I’ve mentioned above, the recommended brightness of a SAD lamp should be 10,000 lux. However, the intensity of the brightness may differ depending on the manufacturer and your symptoms.
3. Buy the SAD lamp that suits your lifestyle.
Buying a cheaper SAD lamp may sound reasonable but make sure you buy the lamp that doesn’t require you to sit in front of it for hours, disrupting your daily routine. Experiment with different types before choosing the right one that suits your routine.
4. More is not always better.
Before buying a SAD lamp, you need to understand that overusing the SAD lamp or lightbox is not recommended. Overusing the SAD lamp can have the opposite effect and cause insomnia.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a condition that causes low mood and depressive symptoms, seasonally. While some people may feel SAD during the summer season, most people experience SAD during the winters.
SAD happens when you are not exposed to the sunlight your body needs to regulate the internal clock and other body functions.
To find relief, SAD lamps and light therapy can be used to increase your mood, ease the symptoms, and increase your feel-good hormones.
SAD lamps work when used at home or combined with other treatments of seasonal affective disorder. Whichever way you use light therapy or SAD lamps, it is suggested that you first consult with a professional before buying a light therapy lamp.
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Thinking of buying a SAD lamp? Did you find the above information helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
Take care and stay safe.