Seasonal affective disorder affects many of us to some degree. Once again, it is nearing the Autumnal Equinox. This is the so-called “beginning of fall.” And for many people, it is around this time that they notice the shift from summer towards fall and winter and begin to experience a sense of fatigue or lethargy that can be the precursor to depression, for those who have seasonal mood variations. Thus, this is a very good time to find your therapy light and set it up. Or, to buy one. We will talk some more about that in a bit.
Not only is this the time when the length of the day is changing the most rapidly. But for the past few weeks morning has been getting shorter much faster than evening. Since morning light is essential to maintaining healthy circadian rhythms, this is a time when it is especially important to you are getting exposed to enough bright morning light. Adequate morning light means half an hour to 45 minutes of bright light before 9:00am. Bright light is not usually something you can get indoors, except with a therapy light. So, this either means going outside for a half an hour to 45 minutes in the morning (perhaps taking a walk or going for a run or bike ride) or it means setting up a therapy light.
Therapy lights come in three basic styles.
1. Blue lights. Blue lights are usually smaller and can be battery operated so that they are very useful when traveling. Blue lights are based on the fact that it is preferentially blue light that sets the circadian rhythms. So a light that exposes you to just blue light doesn’t have to be quite as powerful as a full spectrum light. There are several available, now, the one made by Phillips, GoLite, is a good choice, if somewhat expensive. You should be warned that blue light seems to have a more powerful activating effect. Some people find that upsetting, others feel that they get more of a benefit from blue light.
2. Traditional light boxes. Full spectrum therapy lights usually end up being large-ish boxes that are difficult to position, but these are the — this is they type of therapy light where there are the most choices. It’s worthwhile reminding everyone that you need to get a light that puts out at least 10,000 Lux and you must sit one and a half feet away from it and the light must shine on both of your eyes. Distance is especially important because light intensity varies as the square of distance. So, if you are twice as far away from the light as you should be, meaning if you’re three feet away, you will only get a quarter of the intensity. So it can be tricky finding the right place for these. The picture at the right nicely illustrates one way of setting up a light box that would not work.
3. Overhead and desktop lights substitutes. We like lights that are made by Blue Max, a Canadian company, because these overhead and desktop lamps don’t look that much different from a typical light fixture. And so, it makes it easier to put them into a room without having that room look like a tanning salon. Or advertising that you have seasonal moods. In fact they fit easily into an office setting, and many of our patients have one at home and one at work.
However you do it, we encourage you to get that light set up.
That way you can make it through the next couple of months without having a big dip in mood.