As winter approaches you may feel more sluggish than usual. You may want to snuggle up in your warm, cozy bed the entire day or just lie down on your couch watching movies. It is not just the cold weather that is making you feel this way. As days shorten from early fall through winter, it causes your serotonin, the hormone that affects your mood, digestion, memory, sleep, and sexual desire, to remain inactive in your neurons. During fall and winter, people tend to have a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), causing them to feel less motivated, tired, sad, and sleepy. You may be more at risk of SAD if you are a woman, young, have a family history of mood disorders, or live further away from the equator.
If you have seasonal depression, you may have 5 percent higher levels of a transporter protein that takes away serotonin from in between your neurons and moves it into the presynaptic neuron. Sunlight prevents this from happening, but less sunlight during winter causes more serotonin to end up hibernating in your neurons. People affected with SAD may also have an overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness in response to darkness, during winter. Phototherapy or Bright Light Therapy is an effective treatment for SAD. You can undergo this therapy in the comfort of your home, but you need to keep a few things in mind to avoid making some common mistakes. Here are a few ways in which you can get the most out of light therapy.
1. Use The Right Kind Of Light
When you are trying to receive the same benefits you get from a full spectrum of sunlight, a normal lamp just does not cut it. You need to use light boxes specially designed for Bright Light Therapy or phototherapy. Such light boxes emit 10,000 lux, which is about 20 times brighter than any normal light bulb. Using a lamp that emits fewer lux units means you have to use it for a longer period of time in order to avail the same benefits. The light boxes should provide the full spectrum of light, except ultraviolet rays.
2. Place Your Light Box In The Right Position
The position of your light box and its distance from you makes a huge difference in the way it affects you. The light box should be at eye level or higher and about 2 feet away from you. In order to avoid staring at something that mimics sunlight, position the box about 45 degrees to the right or left from your eyes.
3. Use The Light Depending On Your Needs
The time you need to spend in front of a light box depends from person to person. Depending on your mood, start with 20 to 30 minutes in front of the light box every morning and slowly move up to 60 minutes. You can spend your time checking your email, having breakfast, or putting on makeup.
4. Use The Light Consistently
If you want good results, then consistency is key. Start using the light box from early fall through winter each morning. It will not be as effective if you use the light box only a few times a week.
5. Combine It With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Or Yoga
As you continue with light therapy, you can make a conscious effort to monitor your mood to see if it is working. You should start feeling better within 1 to 2 weeks of daily use of the light box. If you are extremely depressed and light therapy does not have a significant effect on your mood, then combining light therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy will be beneficial for you. You can also include yoga, exercise, and meditation to your daily routine.
Consult your doctor before using light therapy if you are photosensitive or are taking any form of medication that may be making you sensitive to light, as it may result in sunburn or rashes on your skin.