Is Winter Making You SAD? Light Therapy Can Help
February 7, 2008
Catherine Merrow sits by the sunshine simulator therapeutic lamp in the Ben Franklin Center Library at Franklin Memorial Hospital. Anyone is welcome to use the lamp and the resources the library offers.
Even though the days are getting longer, many of us still find it difficult to get outside in the sunlight. Lack of sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some people. SAD is a mood disorder that can cause depression during periods of the year when sunlight is less common. Sufferers feel the effects most during the dark winter months.
The symptoms and effects of SAD can include weight gain and excessive sleeping, decreased desire for social activity, and lack of energy. The distinguishing mark of SAD is that the symptoms come on during the autumn months, last through the winter, and then fade away as the sun returns in spring.
A mild case of seasonal affective disorder or winter blues can often be alleviated with light therapy, regular exposure to a bright light source. With light therapy, light passes through the eye and travels to the pineal gland inside the brain, signaling it to release the hormones melatonin (which make you sleepy) and serotonin (which makes you feel good).
To prevent seasonal affective disorder and if your lifestyle allows it, go outside as often as possible when the sun is bright. Another way to compensate for a lack of time in sunlight is to sit in the light of a therapeutic lamp.
The Ben Franklin Center Library at Franklin Memorial Hospital has added a HappyLite Sunshine Simulator (therapeutic lamp) to its many resources for use by employees or the public as a means of light therapy.
“Both groups have enjoyed sitting in the comfortable chairs reading by the light of the full-spectrum lamp this winter,” said librarian, Emily Scribner.
According to the simulator’s instructions, the user should sit within two feet of the lamp with their eyes open - reading, writing, or working on a hobby. Typical exposure is 15-30 minutes per day, and generally after a week, users should feel an improvement in mood and activity level.
Light therapy has been researched and deemed safe by leading institutions worldwide for over 20 years. However, it is recommended that individuals considering light therapy consult with their doctor first regarding any history of eye disease, as well as the appropriateness of light therapy.
Anyone interested in using the Sunshine Simulator can stop by the Ben Franklin Library from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The Medical Library is located in the Ben Franklin Center, next to the main reception desk.
For more information, contact the librarian by phone at 779-2554 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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