Do you dread the Winters?
The nights are drawing in and the shortest day is now less than a month away.
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.
Well if this is you then HELP IS AT HAND AND YOU ARE BY NO MEANS ALONE!
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.
How to help SAD using a lightbox
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.
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’