Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., is now officially recognised as a medical condition thought to affect over 2 million of the British population.
SAD can affect people of any age but most commonly it starts between the ages of 18-30. At one time it was thought that four times as many women as men suffered from SAD, but now increasingly men recognise the symptoms and seek treatment. SAD is also known as the Winter Blues, and about 10% of the population suffer to some degree with 2-3% suffering with clinical depression.
Typical symptoms include:
- Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason.
- Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine.
- Anxiety, inability to cope.
- Social problems, irritability not wanting to see people.
- Sleep problems, finding it hard to stay awake during the day, but having disturbed nights.
- Loss of libido, not interested in sex or physical contact.
- Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain.
- Recurring symptoms year after year at about the same time of year (Autumn / Winter).
SAD has a lot in common with the hibernation cycle of animals and research showed that this was triggered by a response to decreasing light levels. As the days grow shorter and the light becomes less intense, it increases the desire to ‘hibernate’.
Light intensity is measured in ‘lux’ the Latin word for light. On a summer’s day at our latitude we may have up to 16 hours of daylight at 100,000 lux. In winter an 8 hour dull day will give less than 5,000 lux and indoor lighting rarely exceeds 500 lux.
Historically, treatment for depression involved the use of drugs, however, in recent years research in the USA and UK showed that SAD sufferers responded, often quite dramatically, to Bright Light Treatment. Fully proven lightboxes from trusted brands such as the SAD Lightbox Co. (carrying ISO 13485 / 9001 and Medical CE Mark 0120) have been specifically designed for and are a recognised method of alleviating S.A.D.
Lack of light causes an increase in the production of Melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night), and a reduction of Serotonin, a lack of which causes depression. The exposure to bright light therapy reverses the process, with the additional benefit of being drug free. You should start to feel the benefit within 4-10 days of using a lightbox.
By providing summertime levels of light during the winter you can successfully alleviate the symptoms of SAD with the result that former sufferers can lead a normal, happier life and beat the Winter Blues.
Studies have also shown that bright light therapy can prove beneficial with Pre-menstrual syndrome, Jet lag, shift work, insomnia and with some cases of MS and ME. The Light Therapy Institute have also been successful in treating children with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties; even children and students without these problems can benefit and work better by using the lightbox as a desk top working light.