Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which can include loss of interest in activities and social engagements, overeating, sleep disorders, and feelings of hopelessness or guilt. It peaks during the winter months when the light in the day gets shorter. Women are affected 2x greater in frequency than men.
Integrative approach to SAD involves working on aerobic exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and antidepressants. Other novel way is to combine the above with using light box therapy or phototherapy. These therapies use fluorescent bulbs which mimic the sun’s wave lengths. Some studies suggest they can boost circadian rhythms and others suggest it increases certain neurotransmitters which can work on mood but the mechanism is still unclear. Most light boxes emit 10,000 lux which is a measurement of illumination. Bright sunny days measure about 50,000 lux. It is recommended patients sit in front of their box for 30 minutes ideally upon waking up each day. Looking directly into the light can cause side effects such as macular degeneration which are due to the rays from the blue light spectrum. Some other side affects can be worsening ocular changes for sensitive patients and possible mania episodes for those with bipolar.
Discuss with the role of the light box for seasonal affective disorder with your physician.