How To Help SAD With A Light Box.

Do you dread the Winters?

The nights are drawing in and the shortest day is now less than a month away.

Photo of Chipmunk curled up hibernating with it's back against a white old fashioned alarm clock with the 2 bells at the top. The chipmunk is wearing a pale blue night cap with paw prints on it. The time on the clock is half past six. The background is white.

Does winter for you bring to mind the feeling of wanting to curl up in a ball, lock yourself away from the world and fill up on crisps and chocolate? 

Or maybe you can only think of the cold dark nights and feeling depressed.


It is well-recognised now by the medical profession that seasonal changes can have devastating effects on some people. In fact, over 2 million Brits are known to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). As a result, a lot of research has been done on how to help SAD in such individuals over the coming months.

What Triggers SAD?

The problem comes from our animalist natural urge to hibernate over the winter, which is triggered by shorter days and reduced light.

During the British Summer, light intensity (measured in Lux) can reach as high as 100,000 lux, but in the winter this is reduced to mere 5,000 lux, and if you are stuck indoors this may drop even lower to 500 lux.

Research has shown that one of the best methods to help counteract this effect, with often quite dramatic effects, is through Bright Light treatment.

By increasing your full spectrum exposure to levels closer to a bright summer’s day, you can successfully alleviate the symptoms of SAD. This can be achieved by using a specially designed Light Box for only a few hours each morning.

Sun setting over a frozen river with snow either side and low level scrub along the banks. There are scattered clouds in the sky with the sun shining through

How to help SAD using a lightbox

Image of a SAD light box turned on. It is rectagonal in portraite and looks like it's against a white tiled wall

Check with your GP first.

Conditions such as bipolar disorder, glaucoma, or lupus may need special consideration. Also if you are on medication it’s best to check they won’t affect your sensitivity to the light.

Some prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements can make your skin reactive to these types of light known as photosensitive, requiring an adjustment to the lamp use. Such medications include lithium, some acne drugs, and St. John’s wort.

Use the lamp daily.

Be sure to use the lamp every day over the winter months, until the daylight hours increase.

Experiment with time-frame

General guidance is to use them for 20-30 minutes, but you may find you need a bit longer. The maximum duration is considered to be 60 minutes.

When and how often to use it?

Most experts recommend using a SAD lamp first thing in the morning. Your GP/Doctor might recommend use during the day too.

It is not a case of more is better because too much SAD light exposure can cause insomnia or other side effects.  So, remember not to use your SAD light later in the afternoon or evening. 

If you are experiencing insomnia as a direct result of using a SAD light then use it earlier in the day and assess your body’s response.

Photo from above of a person typing on a laptop on a wooden desk. You can only see a bit of their torso in a denim blue shirt and their arms out in front hands on the keyboard. The are wearing a patterned knitted cardigan. There is a small notpad and pen between their arms on the desk and to the right their mobile phone, a red mug of black tea or coffee and a small portable lightbox which is turned on.

Follow manufacturer recommendations.

Your lamp should come with positional instructions and how close you need to be to it. If you have it too far away, you won’t get the benefit. 

Also, angle the light downward to prevent it from shining straight into your eyes.

When and how to best stop using the lamp.

Get advice from your Doctor on how to transition out of its use if you are unsure. As the days get longer you may find that you don’t feel the need to use it or simply forget.

It may be best to slowly reduce usage as the days get lighter. Try and spend time outside first thing to help your body adjust to the lighter days again. We’re all different so reflect on how you feel and make any adjustments you need.

So winter doesn’t need to fill you with dread and feelings of hibernation. By putting a little more light on the matter, you can get more out of your winter this year.

If this article has spurred you on to look into buying a SAD light then check out our blog on ‘What to look for in a SAD light box

To Your Brighter Health!

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