What Are SAD Lamps & How To Use Them For Seasonal Affective Disorder

sad lamp

As the seasons change and summer becomes fall, then fall become winter, it's normal to need some time to adjust to the change. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. Warm weather is out, and cold, wintry weather is all the way in. For most people, it's a time of adjustment. But for some people, the adjustment is especially hard. People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, may have a harder time during the fall and winter months.

SAD is a type of seasonal depression, common during fall and winter, that is believed to be brought on by the changing of the seasons, including shorter days and colder weather. If you suffer from SAD, and are looking for a way to manage your symptoms during those months, you might want to consider getting a SAD lamp. Light therapy can help replace some of the benefits of natural sunlight, which is harder to come by during fall and winter. This information may help you figure out if a SAD lamp is right for you.

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective disorder is a mood disorder that occurs during the fall and winter and months. Experts aren't sure exactly what causes SAD, but the theory is that for some people, the lack of natural sunlight leads to the brain producing less serotonin, which is the chemical in your brain that regulates mood. When your brain doesn't produce enough serotonin, it can lead to depression and other issues, like fatigue and weight gain. SAD typically starts in childhood, and is more common in women. For some people, it can be mild. For others, SAD can result in a deep depression that can affect every aspect of your life. Symptoms of SAD include a lack of energy, fatigue, an increased desire to be alone, weight gain, and a need to sleep all the time.

What is a SAD lamp?

sad lamp
Credit: Amazon

While there are several treatment options for SAD sufferers, including antidepressants and and therapy, many people use SAD lamps to help manage mess serious cases. SAD lamps are a form of light box therapy, which can help regulate the production of serotonin in your brain. Light affects our circadian rhythms, which can be lacking during the months when there is less natural sunlight. SAD lamps can help replace some of that natural light with artificial light, which can trick your brain into producing less melatonin, a chemical which is linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

How do you choose the right SAD lamp?

Light therapy can be beneficial in treating SAD, but it's important to choose the right type of SAD lamp. You want to look for one that provides an exposure to 10,000 lux of light and emits as little UV light as possible. Look for a SAD lamp that is designed specifically to treat SAD - a regular lamp won't provide the same benefits. Depending on the recommendation of your doctor, make sure the lamp is bright enough and produces enough light to get the full benefits in the prescribed time per day.

Precautions to consider when using a SAD lamp.

If you're not using the right type of lamp, you can actually do more harm than good. For example, light therapy lamps that are designed to treat skin disorders emit more UV light than is recommended during a light therapy session for SAD treatment, and should be avoided. Brighter lamps which emit at least 10,000 lux of light can be used for less time each session, and may be more effective.

You want to take care to avoid looking directly at the lamp, as the light can damage your eyes (SAD lamps designed for the treatment of SAD filter out most UV light, but should still be used with caution). There are several different styles to choose from, so make sure you choose the one that works best for you; consider where you will be using the lamp the most, and if you can place it in the best location for maximum benefit.

Before you decide to purchase a SAD lamp to help with your Seasonal Affective Disorder, talk to your doctor about treatment options, and how to best maximize the benefits of using a SAD lamp. SAD lamps are most effective when used in conjunction with other treatments, like antidepressants and therapy. Before beginning light therapy, make sure that you're choosing the right path to treat and manage your Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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Susbstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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