Light Therapy Helps Seasonal Depression
> 1/8/2007 3:06:50 PM

Oversleeping, fatigue, decreased motivation and weight gain are common annoyances to many, particularly around the winter holiday season, but if they appear and disrupt your life at around the same time every year, they may be symptoms of a larger clinical problem. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands around the world who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (most commonly winter depression), a number of new and time-tested therapies may help lighten your load. While antidepressants may be necessary in extreme or prolonged cases, experts now list light therapy as the first line of defense against SAD.

For most SAD patients, a period of persistent depression begins as early as September each year and does not abate entirely until May. The main reasons for these mood shifts are changes in local light patterns. Patients report deteriorating moods that correspond very closely with decreases in temperature and hours of sunlight per day. The further north one moves, the more extreme the symptoms generally become. Patients also report periods of increasing depression under overcast skies.

The newest treatment to gain widespread approval is known as dawn simulation, a process wherein a series of artificial lights operate to imitate the rising sun. The sleeping body responds to this stimuli by speeding up functions to prepare for the new day before the mind actually arrives at the waking state.Working on the theory that a large part of SAD stems from the body's disorientation due to changing environmental conditions, the lights allow for a more "regular" sleep schedule, with patients waking refreshed at the same times each day. After only a few days, the body grows accustomed to the new setup and, hopefully, eliminates the root cause of unwanted SAD symptoms. A majority of patients report satisfaction with the dawn simulation treatment method. A more extreme bright light approach is also used; patients sit in front of large fluorescent lights after waking each morning or at points throughout the day in order to stimulate the body and keep it alert and active. While some respond to stimuli as small as increases in indoor lighting and dawn simulation seems to work best, some SAD patients see better results with the heavier bright light technique.

For those who think they might suffer from seasonal disorders, several websites offer free assessments for SAD and related conditions.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy