Short overcast days and long cold nights can make you sad. There’s even a psychiatric diagnosis that uses sad as an acronym – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens when you lose energy, can’t seem to focus, crave sugar and “bad” carbohydrates, and have a sense of defeat with feelings of worthlessness. Some say that people with this response are in tune with nature and are empathically experiencing a kind of winter period alongside the trees and shrubs (when winter land is kind of glum and non-fruitful too). Yet, the world goes on and doesn’t seem to allow for hibernation in humans. Perhaps that’s why western medicine has stepped in to help the half a million Americans that complain about SAD every year.
The solution is light therapy. People can receive up to 30 minutes of light at an intensity of 10,000 lux (in lumination measurement). To contrast, your household lamps generally put off about 100 lux whereas a bright sunny day can dose you with 50,000 lux or more. Researchers are investigating different timing periods and different light sources. In one study, Columbia University researchers discovered impressive results by calibrating light exposure to natural melatonin rhythms. The difference shows improvement in 80% of the patients that were timed appropriately as opposed to 38% (Mother Nature must be really good as most of these patients’ SAD symptoms improve with the onset of spring).
Still, if you can’t wait for spring, check out the Society of Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms to learn more. But before you run out to get your light therapy, know that certain medications and conditions can cause retinal damage from light therapy. This includes: St. John’s
Still, if you can’t wait for spring, check out the Society of Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms to learn more. But before you run out to get your light therapy, know that certain medications and conditions can cause retinal damage from light therapy. This includes: St. John’sWort (a natural herb for treating depressive symptoms), Lithium (used for bipolar treatment), Melatonin (a natural sleep aid), antipsychotic medications, and conditions like diabetes and retinal conditions.