Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that can occur yearly during the fall and winter seasons due to a lack of sunlight, but a light therapy box can offer relief.
Lower levels of sunlight in the winter seasons mean individuals will take in less light. As a result, the amount of serotonin, also known as the "happy chemical," in the body drops. Light therapy lamps can help you adjust to that dip, as they provide natural lighting that may be not present in your current environment.
What is a Sun Lamp?
A sun lamp, or a SAD lamp, is a special type of light that imitates sunlight and natural outdoor light. The use of a sun lamp is what is sometimes referred to as light therapy by doctors, and people experiencing SAD often use these sun lamps as light therapy boxes.
People who lack Vitamin D may also need to use sun lamps, as Vitamin D helps the muscles, nervous system, and immune system work properly.
For some, light therapy can prove more effective when combined with other SAD treatments, such as psychological counseling or anti-depressants.
How do Sun Lamps Work?
Sunlight is essential for the human body for a variety of reasons. It affects the body's daily cycles and governs how people feel when they wake up and go to sleep.
According to Healthline, the light coming from a sun lamp is believed to positively impact serotonin and melatonin production, which are the chemicals that control your wake and sleep cycle.
Health Harvard states that doctors often recommend that people with SAD sit by a light-box or sun lamp that provides 10,000 LUX as soon as they wake up for approximately 30 minutes. Sitting in front of a sun lamp every day within the first hour of waking up can improve SAD symptoms within a few weeks.
Scientists are not sure that light therapy works, but there is some evidence that supports these claims.
Sun Lamp Uses
Apart from treating SAD, sun lamps can treat other medical conditions, such as:
A low level of serotonin in the body has often been linked to depression, as the chemical helps improve your moods and reduces anxiety. Since light therapy treatment can encourage serotonin production, it can be used to treat other types of non-seasonal depression. Researchers have found out that the therapy alone or combined with antidepressants can effectively combat depression symptoms.
A lack of adequate sunlight can negatively affect dementia patients. When a dementia patient experiences sleep disturbances, they may become agitated, which can lead to depression. A study is still underway on how using 24-hour lighting systems can affect patients' health.
3. Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders, shift work, and jet lag can negatively affect your circadian rhythm, causing insomnia and fatigue. The circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that keeps you alert during the daytime and helps you sleep at night, so interfering with it can make the body function improperly. Bright light therapy can help align your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep and wake time.
Misconceptions About Uses of Light Therapy Lamp
- Light therapy is not for everyone, and it's only for the patient's well-being.
- SAD lamps don't give you a tan or increase your Vitamin D levels, no matter the brightness level.
- Tanning sun lamps are not the same as the lamps that treat disorders.
- The sun lamps for SAD filter out most of the UV light, and using the wrong lamp type could cause eye problems or other side effects.
Generally, the light from sun lamps is considered safe, because the lamps don't emit UV rays. However, a lamp may cause other mild, short-lasting side effects, such as eyestrain, nausea, or headaches. These side effects should go away within a few days after you start using light-boxes.
Another way you can minimize side effects is to reduce treatment time, take breaks during long sessions, and move farther away from your therapy lamp. If the side effects have become a significant issue in your life, please consult with your doctor.
It's always important to speak to a doctor before using a lamp if you have other conditions, like bipolar disorder, lupus, connective tissue disorders, or macular degeneration due to increased sensitivity to light.
You should also use caution if:
- You have an eye condition vulnerable to light damage.
- You are taking medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, that increase your sunlight sensitivity.
How to Use a Sun Lamp
According to Health Harvard, a light therapy lamp will benefit you when the light enters your eyes, meaning your eyes should be open. That said, you should avoid looking at the light directly.
Additionally, for the best results, you should use the light therapy lamp in the morning at 10,000 LUX intensity, which is 9,900 LUX more than the household's average light. How much time you spend in front of the lamp depends on the intensity or brightness settings you're using.
Below are some tips to help you correctly use your sun lamp and achieve the best results:
- Purchase the right light-box for your needs.
- Place your chosen sun lamp on your bedside table or a desk in your office about 16 to 24 inches away from your face.
- Position the lamp at 30 degrees overhead.
- Avoid looking at the light directly.
- Use the sun lamp for around 20 to 30 minutes or the amount of time your doctor recommended.
- Use the therapy lamp at the same time every day, preferably in the morning, to stay content during the day.
- Use SAD lamps that are approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for SAD treatment.
Where to Purchase the Sun Lamp
There are different brands of sun lamps, and the prices depend on the features and retailer. The best sun lamps can be bought in retail or online stores in whatever country you reside in and can be used by everyone without a prescription. However, do not purchase if you have any skin conditions or haven't consulted with your doctor first.
Other Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some lifestyle changes can also relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, including:
- Taking a walk outside, especially in the morning.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Exercising and eating nutrient-rich foods.
- According to Mayo Clinic, you should avoid any substances, like alcohol, that may affect your sleeping ability.
With these tips, you'll be well on your way to improving your quality of life.
1. The Light Stuff: 4 Ways to Brighten Your Life: https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/light-stuff-ways-to-brighten-life/
2. Feeling SAD? Try light therapy: https://www.adventisthealth.org/blog/2019/december/feeling-sad-try-light-therapy/
4. Seasonal Affective Disorder: Bring on the light: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/seasonal-affective-disorder-bring-on-the-light-201212215663
5. Do Sun Lamps Really Lift Your Spirits and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder: https://www.healthline.com/health/sun-lamp