We have just passed the “saddest day” of the year - the third Monday of January. This day was identified a few years ago based on several “sad” events; bills are coming due, colder weather and waning New Year’s resolutions.
However, for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (depression), clinical research has shown that symptoms peak in January and February, as the weather reduces how much sun we get. The primary cause of the winter blues is insufficient exposure to daylight.
Since the 1980s, researchers have demonstrated that bright light from the sun or an artificial source (bright light therapy) causes a physiological change to the production of hormones in the body. The hormones primarily affected are melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and serotonin (the awake/happy hormone).
The eyes communicate to the brain that it is daytime when bright light hits the eye, and this light signal causes changes to hormone production. Normal levels of light at home or work are not nearly high enough to cause hormone changes, so for some people, the results are the winter blues.
The Effect of Seasonal Depression
People with the symptoms of seasonal depression often feel sleepy, may have poor concentration, can be less social than usual or crave carbs. Bright light therapy boxes and lamps can often help people with this seasonal type of depression. Whether they get it from the sun or use a therapeutic white light designed to treat the winter blues.
If you are considering a therapy lamp, you should consult with your physician or mental health professional first. Then choose a light that has been clinically tested and shown to be effective. Also look for sellers who rent the lamps, since renting a lamp is one way to see if using one is right for you. For more information on light therapy visit the center for environmental therapeutics at www.cet.org