How do I know if I've got SAD?
There are a diverse range of symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder; many are associated with a feeling of general depression - which is why it is sometimes known as the 'Winter blues'. Below is a list of possible symptoms.
An example of SAD Symptoms include:
Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
Sleep problems, finding it hard to stay awake during the day, but having disturbed nights
Loss of libido, not interested in physical contact
Anxiety, inability to cope
Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people
Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason
Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain
If you always start to feel the symptoms start the same time each year, every Autumn/Winter its very likely you suffer from SAD.
It is always important to consult your doctor if you believe you have SAD as it may be another condition.
How is SAD Diagnosed?
Your GP is a good first point of contact. He or she will ask about your day-to-day life and symptoms. One bout of the "winter blues" doesn't automatically mean you have SAD. But, if you have regular symptoms over three or more consecutive years in autumn/winter which clear in the spring, the diagnosis may be SAD.
Your GP may also want to rule out other forms of depression.
What is the Treatment for SAD?
The basic treatment for SAD is light therapy. The British NHS, many European Medical Institutions along with the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association recommend light therapy. Light therapy is as simple as it sounds - adding more light to the environment.
A device called a light box is often used for light therapy. The box contains fluorescent light bulbs, and is set up in a convenient place to receive treatment. This could be a nightstand, a desk, or the kitchen table. The light should not be looked at directly. Sessions with light therapy can be as short as 15 minutes, or as long as three hours. Treatment should be individualised so that neither too much, nor not enough light is received.
How can light therapy help?
Previous treatments for depression and especially Seasonal Affective Disorder involved the use of prescribed medication. In recent years, however, research across the world has shown that SAD sufferers responded, often quite dramatically, to treatment with light.
Lack of light causes an increase in the production of Melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night), and a reduction of Serotonin, the lack of which causes depression. The light has to be bright enough, and must go in through the eye, to affect the hormone production in the brain.
The exposure to bright light therapy reverses the process, with the additional benefit of being drug free.
By providing summertime levels of light during the winter you can successfully alleviate the symptoms of SAD with the result that former sufferers can lead a normal, happier life and beat the Winter Blues. In fact almost everyone can benefit from increased energy levels when using a lightbox.
The Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms (SLTBR) has stated that light therapy is the best non-drug therapy to treat SAD.
Starting your light therapy treatment is as easy as flicking a switch and you should start to feel a benefit within 7-10 days of using a medically certified SAD Light.
How should I choose a lightbox?
The choice of a SAD Light box product is basically governed by your lifestyle Look at your daily routine, and consider when and where you are going to use your lightbox. It will need to fit in with your lifestyle as easily as possible to ensure regular usage. Many lightboxes be used either at home or in an office environment. The longest treatment time you need to take with one of the less bright lightboxes is 1½ hours. So if you have only a little time to take your treatment, choose one of the brighter fast acting boxes, but if you are able to take your treatment for longer, for instance, while you are working at a desk, then a small, portable, less bright model may suit you better.
Here at Sad Shop we understand that it can be confusing to choose your SAD Light Therapy product so we have made it as easy as possible for you to choose the right equipment by listing the strengths and timings. As you can see from the menu on the left, Sad Shop lightboxes have varying degrees of power. Put simply, the higher the power of a lightbox (Ultra High Powered, High Powered, Ultra Compact), the quicker the treatment time. Treatment times vary from around 20 minutes using an ultra high power lightbox to the slower 1 to 2 hour treatment times of the lower power boxes (Desktop Models, Medium Powered, Lower Powered). Busier people will need the higher power boxes, with lower power boxes being ideal for people with a little more time to spare.
When is the best time to take my light therapy?
Light therapy can be started in late August or early September, before symptoms start. Most people find that light therapy is most effective in the mornings. This is because it gives your body the natural signal that the day has begun and as a result your body clock/circadian rhythms can be regulated.
Some people also benefit from a further light therapy session in the afternoon (around 3’oclock) when the body takes a natural dip after lunch. If you don't have sufficient time in the mornings, then having a light therapy treatment in the afternoon is better than not using one at all.
This is not always the case for everyone, but on the whole it is best earlier rather than later. It is preferable to take your treatment at the same time each day.
We would not recommend using a light therapy product less than 4 hours before you go to bed as this can affect your body clock, resulting in disturbed sleep patterns
How long until I start to notice a difference?
This can vary, but some people notice a difference from the first day of treatment, and some take longer, between 2-3 weeks. Usually you should see a difference in about a week or so. If you stop taking your treatment, the symptoms will start roughly in as many days as the benefits took to be felt.
What if I miss a Light Therapy treatment?
In our busy lives it is not always possible to have a SAD light treatment everyday. This is not the end of the world, and you will still benefit from light treatment when you start again.
Do I have to stare at the lightbox?
No, you need to have the light aimed towards your eyes, without actually looking directly into it, about an arms distance away from you. You can carry on with your daily routine with the lightbox on beside you, for example, it can be beside your computer terminal or on your desk, or near you while watching TV, ironing etc. Ideally it should be about an arms distance away from you, within your peripheral vision, not directly in front of you, and to glance at it from time to time.
Can I Overdose on Light Therapy?
As it is effectively a supplement of Sunlight you cannot overdose on Light Therapy. However we would not recommend using a light therapy product less than 4 hours before you go to bed as this can affect your body clock, resulting in disturbed sleep patterns.
Are there other conditions that can benefit from light therapy?
Yes, seasonal and non seasonal depression can both be helped with light therapy as well, people suffering with MS, ME, Bulimia, infertility, PMT, insomnia, fatigue, shift work sleep problems , alzheimer's. It has even shown that fertility rates and libido can be improved.
How often will I need to change the bulbs?
It is advisable to change the bulbs every three years, as all fluorescent tubes loose some of their brightness with time, which will weaken the effectiveness of the lightbox. LED lights never need to be replaced. Click hereto see the replacement bulbs for sale.
What is the difference between a SAD light and a normal flourescent light?
Ordinary light bulbs and fittings are not strong enough to treat SAD. Average domestic or office lighting emits an intensity of 200-500 lux but the minimum dose, necessary to treat SAD is 2500 lux, The intensity of a bright summer day can be 100,000 lux.
The SAD Lightbox bulbs also emit the full spectrum of light (the same as natural sunlight), unlike flourescent bulbs that emit a much narrower range of colours and thus the clarity is greater and better visual accurity is acheived. It is for this reason that sitting under flourescent lighting can be tiring. Click here to see the
Are Full Spectrum and Daylight Bulbs SAD Lights?
No, not at this time. Unfortunately due to clever marketing many people believe they can get a SAD Light treatment just by buying a full spectrum bulb or daylight bulb but this is factually incorrect.
This is misleading as unless the bulb emits 10000 lux they cannot be classed as powerful enough to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. At this time there is no standard bulb, full spectrum bulb or daylight bulb that is powerful enough to treat SAD. The bulbs emit a pleasant light that can reduce tiredness and give better visual accurity but their benefit in treating SAD is unproven and not based on any medical evidence of which SAD.org.uk are aware.
Can Children use SAD Lights?
Some children do suffer from SAD and it's perfectly safe for them to use a SAD light. Symptoms would be the same as those suffered by adults. It is also perfectly safe to use a SAD Light if there are children in the room whilst you are having a treatment. Children will often be drawn to the pleasant light that is emitted from the products.
Please remember that all electrical devices should be supervised when being used by younger children.
Due to only small amounts of research being carried out in respect of light treatment and very young children, we do not recommend that babies and very small children use a SAD light.
Are there any additional ways to help with SAD and Winter Blues?
1. Light up your life. Spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight can be really helpful. Keep curtains open in the daytime, let the light in!
2. Get moving. Take up regular exercise, it will reduce your stress and increase your endorphin levels- the feel good chemical. - walking, swimming, cycling or aerobics.
3. Use a light box. Light boxes can be bought for as little as £115 and, in the UK, are now VAT free.
4. Dawn simulation. Some people, especially those that need to wake in the morning when it is still dark may benefit from lamps that simulate a slow, gradual sunrise, in the final hours of sleep. The gentle natural waking can really help with mood and alertness, and alleviate sleep problems.
5. Buy a negative ioniser. Research in light therapy has also shown that SAD sufferers may benefit from negative ionisers.
6. Eat more : raw fruits, vegetables, bananas, soy products, brown rice, millet, beans, herbal teas.