Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that afflicts people primarily during the winter months, and is often referred to as seasonal depression or the winter blues. SAD was discovered in the early eighties by the National Institute of Health, who estimates that up to 20% of Americans suffer from mild SAD symptoms during the winter months, with 4%-6% of the population suffering from full blown Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD causes you to feel down, gloomy, and lose energy. You may withdraw socially and have difficulty concentrating or feeling alert. It may also affect your eating habits, causing you to crave carbohydrates for energy. Sufferers also experience many circadian rhythm and sleep related problems.
Seasonal Affective Disorder vs. Winter Blues
Although often confused with the ‘winter blues,’ Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues are not the same. SAD is manifested by symptoms of clinical depression, with impaired cognitive ability and decreased social interaction. Whereas, the Winter Blues is milder than Seasonal Affective Disorder and is typically identified by a lack of energy and feeling down. If you have winter blues, you can still function in your daily life. However, Seasonal Affective Disorder prevents you from functioning normally and everyday tasks may become insurmountable. Although Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder differ in severity, the treatment use light therapy is the same for both conditions.
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Scientists agree that diminishing sunlight in the fall and winter causes the effects of seasonal affective disorder. Without daylight, the brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin, which results in the depression symptoms. Darker days also signal the brain to overproduce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Symptoms diminish as spring and summer approach, although many Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers note brief (1-2 week) periods of SAD-like symptoms even in the summer months.
Treat SAD using Light Therapy
The National Institute of Health has demonstrated that specialized bright light to be the most effective treatment for reversing the effects of SAD. Light therapy helps recent the body’s circadian rhythm, causing it to produce serotonin in the brain. Physicians and researchers believe that low serotonin levels contribute to symptoms of depression. Since this discovery, scientists have successfully used Feel Bright Light Products to treat seasonal depression as well as other mood and sleep disorders with our GreenSafe™ light therapy technology.
The hibernation hormone melatonin is also suppressed after light therapy treatments. This is important, because melatonin forces us to pull back, conserve and sleep. Melatonin secretion is necessary during the night, but daytime melatonin can be harmful. By suppressing melatonin during the daytime, our activity cycle is extended, and we actually sleep better at night.
Circadian Rhythms Reset by Light
Researches also believe that SAD is associated with shifting circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythm, also commonly referred to as your body clock, regulates your daily activity cycles. Your body clock bright light signals to reset and stay in sync daily. When it doesn’t receive light, it can malfunction. This can cause you to feel sleepy and exhausted during the day. If you have difficulty waking up in the morning, or you wake up at the wrong time, you may have a circadian rhythm disorder. The Feel Bright Light Products can help reset your clock and get you back to your energetic, healthy self again.
SAD Light Products
Since the discovery that light therapy was the most effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, researchers and manufacturers have sought to create the ideal light therapy product. Historically, large light boxes were used to help patients using large diffused field of full spectrum, 10,000-lux light. However, recent research has identified the exact range of light needed to for effective light therapy treatment. This has resulted in our development of GreenSafe™ Technology (490nm-560nm spectrum of green light), which along with our patented product design and advanced LEDs, has resulted in the world’s smallest and most effective light therapy device, the Feel Bright Light.