Light therapy is used to treat people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While many people suffer with depression symptoms starting in the late fall and continuing on through the darker months of winter, a lot of people don’t know that light therapy could help them feel relief from these symptoms in as little as three days.
SAD is believed to be a disruption in a person’s circadian rhythm, which is like our internal biological clocks. The circadian rhythm dips and rises throughout the day, making us alert in the morning and tired in the evenings. If there is a disruption to a circadian rhythm, or if someone suffers from a condition such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, then they find themselves tired at times when the majority of people are awake, and vice versa.
Our internal biological clocks involve molecules in cells that are throughout the body, all interacting with each other. The supra-chiasmic nucleus (SCN), located within the hypothalamus is the master biological clock. The SCN works to co-ordinate all the biological clocks in the body, keeping them synchronized and keeping most of us in a rhythm where we are alert in the morning and tired in the evening.
The SCN is affected by daylight and darkness, via the retina in the eye, which communicates to the brain via a neurological pathway. This connection helps increase or suppress the production of melatonin, which signals the day length to the SCN, giving cues to your body.
In the late fall and through the winter, the daylight starts later and begins earlier, causing a disruption to some people’s circadian rhythm, messing up their internal clocks. Light therapy, sometimes also referred to as phototherapy, can help adjust the circadian rhythm, working to shift sleeping patterns back to the normal times. Some people use a dawn simulator light therapy technique, providing light therapy first thing in the morning. Others find that sitting near a white light after they wake up in the morning, while having their breakfast or reading the newspaper, also works to alleviate SAD symptoms.
Light therapy involves using a full-spectrum lamp with 10,000 lux in intensity. While some people may have success with daily light therapy sessions of 10 minutes, others requires longer sessions up to 90 minutes to get the desired results. Most people with SAD will start light therapy in the late fall, using daily until the spring has arrived bringing more natural daylight with it.
Light therapy works for 80% of people with SAD. Let’s see if light therapy can offer you some relief.