Light Therapy - Seasonal Affective Disorder

In Posts by Heather Hendrie

Beam me up, Scotty!! Or Beam me up S.A.D. Light!

Seasonal Affective Disorder, Light Therapy

When I first moved to the west coast, I found myself weeping, seemingly for no reason, day after day November through March. It was only after my cousin came to visit me, and noted my depressed mood, that I realized how abnormal this was for me.

When these same patterns began to recur year after year, at the same time, and disappear completely on trips to sunnier climes, it became clear to me that I was dealing with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately acronymed S.A.D.

As soon as I knew what was going on, I increased my Vitamin D supplementation, became militant about travelling to sunny places in the Canadian winter months, and tried using the light therapy boxes at the university I was working for. It seemed to work, so I bought a light therapy box of my own. Recently, I’ve discovered an even-better-for-me alternative (because I have a hard time sitting still & remembering to turn the light therapy box on). It’s a hilarious looking light therapy visor, that I can wear as I eat my breakfast, do the dishes and brush my teeth. It even has a timer built into it, and shuts off once I’ve received my daily dose.

I was so surprised and delighted by the efficacy (& hilarity) of this new approach, that I reached out to the company for another sample visor to share publicly through an online contest. I also asked them for a discount for other folks who may need one, and they said yes!

Not everyone can afford one of these Jordie-from-Star-Trek light visors – so know that as long as you’re getting 10,000 lumens of light, it has been proven helpful.

It’s worth noting that for some, light therapy is actually contra-indicated, so always check in with your health care providers first. It’s also helpful to discuss other options, such as therapy, or medications, that may also be helpful treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. symptoms.

The various lights available for light therapy are designed to deliver a therapeutic dose of bright light to treat symptoms of SAD, and are designed to mimic outdoor light. It's thought that this type of light may cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD, such as being tired most of the time, lacking motivation, feeling down, or sleeping too much.

Light therapy treatment is not yet regulated for SAD treatment, so it's important to do your research. In short, a light box should:
- Produce as little UV light as possible
- Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
- (My super cool Luminette 3 light visor does not, but because it’s designed to land directly on the eyes, its 2,000 lux of light has proven as effective as other light boxes in studies. Awesome!)

Typical recommendations suggest using your light therapy device:
- Within the first hour of waking up in the morning
- For about 20 to 30 minutes

You can buy a light therapy device without a prescription, but it's always best to use it under the guidance of a health care provider and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Most health insurance plans don't currently cover the cost, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a Health Spending Account (HSA), it’s always worth asking!

Again though, there is NO substitute for the sun, so where you can, get outside the moment you wake up, soak up a little sunshine through your eyeballs. And if you want to laugh alongside me and the rest of the light squad, you can get your own Luminette 3 light visor here for 20% off.

Woo! Here’s to our health & happiness!

Heather Hendrie

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