For those people who for part of the year have to endure long nights and lack of sunlight because of where they live or the job they do, there used to be little they could do apart from trying to find ways to deal with the symptoms.
However, technology has developed a way that people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or other conditions that need sunlight, to be able to get help without having to resort to other, less effective treatments.
Although people might associate a SAD lightbox with those with suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, these lamps can actually help a wide range of conditions. Some people also use them for other reasons that are not medical but because of their work schedule.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a mood disorder that is triggered by the shorter days and lack of sun in the autumn and winter months. Some of the symptoms of SAD can include sleeping too much, having little or no energy, and overeating.
Although it is normally only associated with autumn and winter, some people with SAD will also suffer from heightened anxiety in the spring and summer months.
SAD affects 14% of people living in Florida in the United States and rises to 9.9% in Alaska. It is also thought to have a link to bipolar disorder, with as many as 20% of people with SAD also having bipolar disorder.
SAD lightboxes are designed to mimic the brightness of the sun and help improve the mood for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
They emit a higher number of lumens than a usual lightbulb and include full-spectrum light at 10,000 lux. The most preferred type is a blue light with a wavelength of 480 nm at 2,500 lux.
There are now many different types of SAD lightboxes so you can choose one that suits you the best. Some are small and portable for use when away from home, while others are larger and designed to be used while sitting and doing other things.
How Should They Be Used?
The lightbox should be placed on a firm surface that is ideally white or light in color, this will help to reflect the light and create more brightness. It is also important that they need to be close to you, ideally 17-20 inches or arm’s length, this will give you the best results, though some people find this distance inconvenient.
The light from the lamp needs to go directly into the eyes for best results, so you shouldn’t wear tinted lenses or sunglasses while using it. Regular glasses or contact lenses are fine, as they allow the whole light spectrum to pass through.
It is important that the light shines into your eyes while you are using it, so it won’t be effective if it is situated behind you or to one side. You should also avoid napping or sleeping as this won’t have any effect.
Most people who use a SAD lightbox like to do other things at the same time such as reading, watching television, or listening to music. In fact, as long as you can keep glancing at the light from time to time, you can do any activity.
How Long Should the Lightbox Be Used?
The length of time that you use the lightbox will vary depending on the severity of the SAD you are experiencing. When the feelings of depression are higher, then the lamp should be used for a longer period. In general terms, 30 minutes is a good starting point, this should be done every day for a week. You can then decide if this length of time is enough, or if you need a longer time.
Most people use the lamps in the morning as this is the best time to improve the mood and get the body and mind ready for the day. It is not advised to use the SAD lightbox at night as the bright light may disrupt sleep patterns. The important thing is that it is used every day, as this will give the best results.
Some people need to adjust to the light intensity, so they may need to sit the lightbox further away at the beginning and move it closer as they get used to it.
Although most people with SAD will only use their lightbox in the autumn and winter, some people like to use it all year round. It really depends on whether the person is getting any benefit from using outside of the winter months.
How To Get The Best Results
As with any therapy, there are things that you can do to make it more effective, they are often simple things, but they can make all the difference when it comes to helping you feel better.
Get The Right Lightbox
It is a good idea to speak to your doctor and get some help when deciding which lightbox to buy. There are many types now on the market, and you need to find one that you can use easily and has the right light frequency that works for you.
One of the most important things to remember with light therapy is consistency. You need to be using the lightbox every day during the winter months to get the full benefit from it.
To stop symptoms from coming back, try to keep a track of when you started and stopped using the lightbox each year. If you find that the symptoms are returning, try extending the use a little until you are feeling consistently better.
There is a lot of benefits from using a lightbox for people with SAD and a lot of success from people who have started using them. It will initially need some experimentation to get the best length of time and equipment that works best for you.