Several years ago I purchased a “light therapy box” from Northern Lights Technologies. I had noticed I just didn’t feel as energetic and “happy” in the fall and winter months. I just felt blah. I did some reading on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and researched the many different types of light therapy boxes available. I wasn’t even sure I had SAD, so I consulted a healthcare professional who agreed with me that it probably wouldn’t hurt to sit by a light box every morning for 20-30 minutes. I was willing to try it.
If you are not familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is a form of depression that occurs usually during the fall and winter months when the daylight hours are shorter. The depression is thought to be due to a change in brain chemistry caused by lack of sunlight. The symptoms of SAD are very similar to depression and are:
- Feeling fatigued, depressed, sad, or tired
- excessive sleeping and daytime tiredness
- social withdrawal
- an increased appetite
- craving carbohydrates or starchy foods
- weight gain
- not wanting to participate in normal activities
- having a hard time concentrating or focusing
- an inability to meet deadlines
- loss of libido
- body aches and pains
According to www.mayoclinic.com you are more at risk for SAD if you are a female since many more females suffer from SAD than males. You are also at an increased risk the further you live from the equator, AND if you have a family history of SAD. Also, if you suffer from clinical depression, you are at an increased risk of SAD.
Research has found that SAD sufferers respond to light therapy, which usually involves sitting by a specialized light box for 20-30 minutes a day, usually in the early morning. Other treatments include medications (antidepressants are often prescribed, especially if your symptoms are severe), and psychotherapy. If you suspect you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, I would recommend you see your primary care provider or a mental health provider such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. It is also important to try to get out as much as possible during these cold winter days to get as much natural sunlight as possible, to exercise regularly, and to eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
After researching various light boxes, I chose to go with the SADelite– a powerful light box by Northern Light Technologies designed as a completely adjustable desk lamp. It has a UV filter and provides 10,000 lux to mimic bright sunlight. I like it because it is very portable and can easily be carried from room to room.
I’ve used it for years and I’ve noticed that my cat often sits under the lamp with me. If he happens to be nearby and hears me “click” on the lamp, he will come running. Keep in mind this lamp puts out NO heat. When I use my lamp, it’s usually in the morning after breakfast. I will often sit in front of my SADelite and read the morning paper while sipping on a cup of coffee. I like to work the crossword puzzles in the morning paper, and by the time I complete the puzzle, I’ve usually got my 20-30 minutes of light therapy in. Many of you might be wondering…. does it help? I can only speak for myself when I say I believe it does. I remember when I first got my lamp, it was like my brain truly craved this light. I wonder if my cat’s brain craves it too. He’s geriatric and no longer wants to go outside so he misses out on the benefits of direct sunlight. In the summer, I notice when I have the windows open and the sun is coming through the windows, he will lay up in the window soaking up the sun, probably craving the warmth as well as the light. If humans can get SAD, I see no reason why an animal couldn’t also suffer from it as well. So if my cat wants to sit under my SADelite with me, he is more than welcome!
I would love to hear from some of you who have had experience with SAD and light boxes as therapy. Has light therapy helped you? What other treatments have you found beneficial?