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Light Therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder also know as SAD or the winter blues is best characterized as periodic, seasonal bouts of low mood which peaks in late January or February. Some people begin feeling the effects earlier, when they begin noticing the days getting shorter. Individuals suffering from SAD also tend to experience increased lethargy, cravings for carbohydrates, increased sleep times, day time drowsiness and decreased activity levels.
For many patients the winter blues can be somewhat mitigated by light therapy which involves exposing patients to bright artificial light for a certain time period. How this helps is not fully understood but its thought to result in increased serotonin (a feel-good signaler) in the brain.
Most studies recommend exposure to 10000 Lux light for 20 to 30 mins per day. Improvement is normally noted during the first week of treatment but should be continued for the remainder of the winter months. To get the best effect stay within a meter of the light source, with eyes open, but not staring directly at the source. It is not clear what time of day is best for treatment, but most experts agree to avoid exposure late in the day.
Light therapy is not suitable for everyone. If you have been diagnosed with mania speak to your health care professional first, as exposure to bright light can induce manic episodes. Also, if you have any ongoing concerns regarding your eyes review light therapy treatment with your doctor first.
When purchasing a light therapy product remember to look for a source with UV filtered light emitting 10000 Lux. These devices can be expensive so renting one first from your local Home Health Care store may be a good option. Make sure to review the different models of SAD lamps as one maybe be better than another depending on how and when you plan on using the device.
For more information please contact Abhay Patel at Town Square Pharmacy and Home Health Center or call 519-662-9995.
Rosenthal, Norman E., et al. "Seasonal affective disorder: a description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy." Archives of general psychiatry 41.1 (1984): 72-80.
Terman, Michael, et al. "Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder." Neuropsychopharmacology 2.1 (1989): 1-22.
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Nearly 115 years ago this photo was captured of John Lautenschlager in costume and on skates. Photo submitted by: Tracy Loch, Castle Kilbride