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Don't be SAD!!! Bring light into your life…

As the weather changes to the wintry side, many start to notice the subtle changes and symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD

October 26, 2008
 
The first signs of SAD are not mood changes. Feeling like you want to sleep more is one of the earliest signs, along with decreased energy levels. Next, "your appetite increases and you might put on some weight," said Erin E. Michalak, a psychiatry researcher. Then your moods start to shade toward dreary.
New research from Stanford researchers suggests SAD might do more than dull our moods. When our circadian rhythms misfire, so does our capacity to remember what we learn. Circadian rhythms guide us daily from a wakeful state and back to sleepiness based on our eyes' and brain's exposure to light. The light deficit of SAD can do a number on our circadian cycle.
No doubt some parents are thinking, hmm, learning and circadian rhythms are linked -- and we're dragging middle-schoolers and high-schoolers out of bed in the dark for the weeks ahead. Not exactly the best combination for productive days.
One common sign of SAD among kids is sudden irritability, said Dr. Leslie Walker. Other signs include reduced function, more fighting or a drop-off in homework performance.
What's important, Walker said, is to recognize that those changes are seasonal as sunrise starts later and sunset arrive sooner.
Of course, SAD is significantly more likely to occur here in northern regions since our days are markedly shorter in November and December. The rate of seasonal affective disorder in the Seattle area and Alaska is roughly 30 percent, while residents of Florida and Arizona check in at about 5 percent.
The good news, said Walker and others, is that light-box therapy appears to reduce symptoms for about 60 to 70 percent of us with SAD tendencies.
"You want to get a box with full-spectrum light and use it for 30 minutes or maybe an hour each day," said Walker.
Some light therapists insist using the box in the morning is optimal, especially if used before 10 a.m. But others say regular use during the day is what's most important. A number of practitioners say that a midday walk outside can be beneficial (you get your vitamin D that way, too). Be careful not to use the light box into the evening, when our bodies otherwise naturally unwind into a sleep state.
For reference, the typical light box emits 10,000 lux of illumination, while the average household is lit with 250 lux and direct summertime sunlight is 120,000 lux.
Notably, Michalak said light therapy is effective for any sort of depression, but that it is front line for SAD. A light box may seem pricey ($160 to $260), but it often can eliminate the cost of anti-depressant medications (along with their unwanted side effects).
Source: By BOB CONDOR, SPECIAL TO THE P-I, October 26th, 2008.
 
Dr. Iverson's Comment
Growing up in this state, it is no doubt that we can relate to the impact a dark dreary day can have on mood. According to research that I have been investigating, it really has little to do with the different waves found in natural sunlight, but just the level of brightness. For instance, UV light, which is emitted from the sun and gives us a tan, really has very little to do with the mood elevating effects of sunlight. In fact, the mood elevation has to do with just the brightness and intensity of the light. Stimulation of the pineal gland in the brain through the eyes by light in a rhythmic fashion is vitally important for proper brain hormone balance. This means better moods, better sleep, and a better state of well-being.
It is recommended light therapy be used in the morning, especially for children and adolescents to stimulate them prior to going to class, as well as prior to the sun setting in the afternoon to extend the overall time of light the body is exposed.
Of course, if you want the real deal I highly suggest doing what the geese do…head south for the winter! A couple weeks can do you some good!
**FYI** There are many types of light therapy boxes on the internet, but we have done the research and found the one best to suit your needs! We will very soon have light therapy boxes for purchase, please put in your order now as we predict they will be very popular this Winter.  Stay tuned for more information!
Be Well!
 
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