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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 05, 2011

Dear Mark: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Box Therapy

By Mark Sisson
74 Comments

With holiday fun come and gone, it’s the time of year when we all truly settle into winter. Spring is a long way off at this point. The cold and darkness aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Most people find their way through the season with a mixture of enjoyment and impatience (and maybe a warm weather vacay), but others have serious reason to dread it each year. Few of us, I think, like giving up our extra hours of daylight. The relative darkness of winter, however, presents a particularly harsh challenge to those who battle SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a form of depression associated with fall and winter’s more limited sunlight.

Dear Mark,

I’m curious if you’ve done any research into the viability of full spectrum light lamps in combating SAD. I can’t get outside much during the limited daylight hours this winter and I’m noticing a marked dive in my mood – I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in college and while I’ve been able to combat it mostly through living Primally, I’m finding it especially difficult this winter (again, probably due to the fact that I really can’t go out during the day right now.) So have you done any research or know of any studies stating how harmful or beneficial these lights are, especially regarding UV rays? Thank you!

Katie

Experts believe that reduced sunlight in fall and winter throws a wrench in SAD sufferers’ circadian rhythms and disrupts their bodies’ hormonal regulation, lowering serotonin levels and/or increasing melatonin for example. Those with SAD (not to be confused with the Standard American Diet) see their everyday lives upset by symptoms such as depression, fatigue, sleepiness, irritability, and concentration difficulties. The hallmark indication of SAD is timing of course: symptoms generally begin in the fall, peak in winter, and decline in spring as daylight hours increase.

Estimates vary but suggest between 4 and 6 percent of people in the U.S. have SAD. (An additional 10-20% of us experience a less serious form of “winter blues.”) Not surprisingly, folks farther north are more at risk than those of us who live closer to the equator. Women (particularly those in their 20s-40s) appear to develop SAD more often than men, but experts don’t know why at this time.

The most common form of treatment is, as Katie suggests, phototherapy. People with SAD are generally prescribed daily use of a light box that emits bright, full spectrum light intended to mimic natural daylight. Experts usually recommend doing the daily session as soon as possible after waking up. Important features of effective light therapy include blue light exposure and total intensity (lux) power. Light boxes/lamps should be 10,000 lux (much more intense than your average home light bulb) and should include blue light for full effectiveness (PDF).

Before buying one, make sure the model you’ve chosen is specifically for SAD therapy and uses blue and not white light. Also, the model should fit the 10,000 lux recommendation – within 1-2 feet distance from the device. (Having it right next to your face for half an hour each day will get old fast.) Expect to pay anywhere from $100-500.

Light boxes do present some risks. (Doesn’t everything in life come with a “but” at some point?) Some users report eye strain and/or headache following the initial sessions, but these effects generally subside. Less common (but still generally minor) side effects include nausea, agitation, and sleep difficulties. Ultraviolet light risks, as Katie mentions, aren’t a concern for light box users because these devices are purposely designed to filter out UV rays. (UV rays are used in other light therapy uses, such as phototherapy for certain skin disorders, which is why it’s essential your model is designed for SAD.)

In recent years, however, experts have warned of risks associated with prolonged exposure to blue light. Over time, blue light can potentially cause retinal damage and macular degeneration. Because blue light appears to be an important component of light therapy for many people with SAD, redirecting the light box or using glasses that filter it might decrease the therapy’s impact. (Kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?) Research is beginning to look at other, potentially safer options, including the use of green light.

Right now there’s no overwhelming consensus or dramatic concern for this risk. Although the light needs to be directed toward your eyes, don’t look directly at the light box. Obviously, use your light box for the prescribed time each day (and no more), and talk to your doctor before increasing your exposure time. It’s probably a good idea to see an ophthalmologist each year to assess any early warning signs for eye damage. If you’re on a medication that makes your eyes more sensitive to light, it’s especially important to talk to your doctor before beginning light therapy.

Other risks involving light boxes relate to their overuse, which can swing the neurotransmitter pendulum in the opposite direction. Excessive exposure to light boxes can result in ongoing insomnia (especially if used late in the day) or – in some cases – mania. Although a half an hour a day might be the general recommendation, the optimum treatment time will be individual.

It’s important to know that phototherapy doesn’t fully turn around depression and associated symptoms in every person diagnosed with SAD. Those who’ve been diagnosed with SAD can take advantage of other therapeutic options. Vitamin D supplementation becomes a key treatment in some folks, particularly because vitamin D levels are closely tied to direct sun exposure. Research has also shown regular exercise to be an effective therapy for every form of depression. As for conventional anti-depressants, it’s true some people with SAD find relief with them, but the side effects for these medications present their own difficulties that must be measured against their potential benefits. There are alternative depression supplements like St. John’s Wort and – an always healthy option – fish oil. (I’d suggest getting thyroid levels checked as well, since thyroid function can fluctuate from season to season.)

Finally, a study from the University of Vermont showed that cognitive behavior therapy for SAD resulted in a lower SAD recurrence rate (5.5%) the following year than either light therapy (36.7%) or combination light therapy-cognitive behavior therapy (7%). (The combination therapy, however, was significantly more effective at inducing remission of SAD [80%] than either cognitive-behavior therapy or light therapy alone [both 50%].)

For the rest of us who might wonder if we fit the “winter blues” category or who are just feeling impatient already for longer, brighter days, the same core principles hold. Get outside as much and as early as possible. When indoors, expose yourself to as much light as you can during the morning and afternoon, but curtail light in the hours before bed. Invest in some full spectrum light bulbs, which won’t offer the boost of a therapeutic light box but can offer a better option than plain incandescent bulbs. Arm your well-being with plenty of physical activity, a good Primal diet, and some wisely supplemented vitamin D and fish oil, which are both used to prevent and treat forms of depression. Find a way to enjoy the season each day, and rest assured that spring will eventually come!

Have thoughts for Katie or suggestions for light box therapy? Thanks for reading today, and be sure to share your feedback.

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74 Comments on "Dear Mark: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Box Therapy"

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Sarah
5 years 8 months ago

I’ve battled this for awhile now, & finally purchased a light from Amazon a few weeks ago. Although I think it’s too early to know for sure if it’s working, I do find myself feeling better. Right now I live in NE Ohio, & hope to someday live where the sun actually shines all year! 🙂

Brett K
Brett K
5 years 8 months ago

Haha, I feel your pain. I live in central Pennsylvania, and it’s sad (no pun intended) that I always get more motivated in the winter to do stuff, but I can’t actually get motivated to continue doing them due to the cold and dreariness. C’est la vie, I guess!

Josh
Josh
5 years 8 months ago

Used to live in NE/Central PA also. My wife and I both have winter issues, so we just moved to Phoenix. It has its pluses and minuses, but it is certainly more sunny here! I feel better this winter than any in memory, and not being depressed as I usually am in the winter help me eat better, which also in turn lifts my mood. It’s an upward spiral, which is good.

Josh
Josh
5 years 8 months ago

On the advice of my last shrink (who I haven’t seen in over ten years thanks to his advice) I take fish oil, St. John’s Wort, Valerian at night, and stick to primal eating and exercise. Of course, he didn’t call it primal at the time, but told me to cut out grains and processed garbage as much as possible. Avoid booze too if you can; it makes things worse too.

Ray
Ray
5 years 8 months ago

Mark,

Would it be possible to share your current daily/weekly workout routine?

Ray

Edward
Edward
5 years 8 months ago
I was diagnosed with this a few years ago (although they called it SID – Seasonal Influenced Depression at the time) and I tried all the light boxes but it didn’t help much. I went through all the drug crap usually prescribed via CW and eventually wound up on HRT and that fixed it – for the most part. I still get this on occasion and it is a pain in the ass most of the time but you learn to live with it. I feel for those who have it and hope they can all find something that helps… Read more »
JamesP
5 years 8 months ago
There is a brief mention in Mark’s article of talk therapy (specifically, CBT), but I believe that it deserves much greater emphasis! My experience with depression is very much personal, so this comment will be somewhat anecdotal. I have no professional qualifications as a doctor or diagnostician or psychologist or anything, except that I’ve been studying psychology pretty deeply for the past few years. I struggled with some pretty deep depression for years and years, and it always got worse in the autumn and winter months, with a reprieve showing up around March-May. When I would complain to others, they… Read more »
JohnC
JohnC
5 years 8 months ago

IFS? Never heard of that before and google / wikipedia nothing relevant as well.

JamesP
5 years 8 months ago

IFS – Internal Family Systems (sorry for the lack of clarity) 🙂

Anne
Anne
5 years 8 months ago
I really , really need some help. I have been constipated for 4 days. I cannot move a stool. And I have to. Like the stool is right “there”…I strain and push and its so ready to come out (like a baby peeking its head from the womb…only to go back in). I am cramping up, I have severe, jabbing stitches in my lower ribs and abdomen now. I just cannot ‘go”. I have no idea what to do. I am so close to buying a laxative,,but really really do not want to for obvious reasons. I’ve heard milk of… Read more »
Robert
Robert
5 years 8 months ago

Go see a doctor.

Jack
Jack
5 years 8 months ago

Drink two teaspoons of epsom salt in 8 oz of water and you’ll be going in no time. If you want to know what to eat read this website, become primal.

Hayley and Bill
5 years 8 months ago

Coconut has laxative effects – magnesium helps too. Also, make sure you’re drinking enough water. If all else fails, try Dr Schulz’ Intestinal Formula #1 (google Herb Doc, and you’ll find it). They’re digestive enzymes, and should help you ‘work things out’.

Good luck!

Anne
Anne
5 years 8 months ago

I can’t find milk of magnesia. I’ve never seen that Schulz stuff. I have a herbal laxative (too afraid to go with pharm ones)…but I don’t think it will be strong enough. I’m literally “stuck”….I am at a loss. I’m continuing to meat meat, squash, eggs, beef broth, yogurt, fruit, kale, onions, avocado, oils, etc etc …maybe I’m crazy.
Honestly, how long should someone go before moving the bowels? When their literally straining, and unable to release anything?
I’m not even able to walk…too uncomfortable. Thoughts on an ideal breakfast?

Meg Gone Primal
Meg Gone Primal
5 years 8 months ago
If it’s as bad as you’re describing, quite graphically, then you need to see your physician. As for a detailed daily eating plan, that is a lot you’re asking of someone for free. Consider buying Mark’s books and/or, as another commented, utilize all the free information on this site – especially in the forums – to craft meals that suit your tastes using primal ingredients. I really can’t stress using the forums enough. Questions such as this are what forums are for; unless your bowel movements are related to seasonal affective disorder and light boxes. Best of luck to you!
Chris
Chris
5 years 8 months ago

smooth move tea and dont eat your meats/animal products overcooked

Brennie
Brennie
3 years 11 months ago

This isn’t very “primal” but it works. Go to a pharmacy and get some “Ducolax” suppositories and tablets. You’ll have relief quickly.

bob
5 years 8 months ago

Try Phillips milk of mag., your friend was correct. My wife uses it occasionally and it works like a charm. Also, melon (cantelope) seems to work for regular maintenance, but probably not for a situation like this. Good luck.

Vickki
Vickki
5 years 8 months ago

My husband suffers from SAD and we ordered a great light online (blue not white) and I think it’s helping him a lot… strangely enough it’s also helping me a lot and I didn’t even realize I was having issues.

Someguy
Someguy
5 years 8 months ago

I used to suffer from the “winter blues” but then I started eating my lunch outside everyday in a short sleeve shirt and shorts for about 15 minutes, It really helps!
(I live in Indiana so winters are cold but I still go out with minimal clothing on.)
I personally don’t like the idea of spending money on a light box or vitamin D tablets because the sun is just outside waiting for me for free.

Trav
Trav
5 years 8 months ago

Vitamin D3 supplements are inexpensive and a good investment for overall health. Also, it’s not just the amount of sunlight you get, but the quality. In the northern parts of the U.S. during winter months UVB rays (the vitamin D producing ones) are nearly totally blocked out by the atmosphere do to the increased angle of sunlight exposure so getting more sun may help with mood, but not D3 levels so much.

Dave
5 years 8 months ago
I got a Philips goLite Blu for Christmas and have been using it every day since then. I got it primarily to combat jet lag as I do a lot of international travel, but it also is supposed to help make you feel more energetic and provide mood relief for the winter blues. It’s too early to say how effective it is, but I have felt more energetic in the morning after using it for about 30 minutes. I wonder if that is a placebo effect. I ordered it from Amazon.com for about $160. I got the travel version that… Read more »
Laura
Laura
5 years 8 months ago

Anne, you need to see a doctor. Experiencing severe pain is not normal with constipation. There could be more going on than you are aware of.

Alhaddadin
Alhaddadin
5 years 8 months ago
I’ve known a number of people from various office jobs of mine who went for the lightbox approach, with varying degrees of success. I am positive that their success rates would all uniformly go up if they were eating and moving a la the PB. I live in Seattle, where the sun currently sets around 4pm, and throughout this winter, as I’ve been following the PB and supplementing Vitamin D pretty religiously, I’ve had zero problems whatsoever in adjusting to the lack of daylight. (For the record – I grew up in Phoenix and I’m of Arab ancestry, so I’m… Read more »
Jon
5 years 8 months ago

I deal with this seasonal stuff every year too. It’s SO HARD to wake up in the morning when it’s still pitch black outside. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those alarm clocks with a light that comes on gradually to brighten the room. Does anyone have any experience with those good or bad?

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 8 months ago
Jon: I’ve been using a SunRizer for years and wouldn’t make it out of bed on winter mornings without it. At first I had it connected to a spotlight pointed at my pillow but now I just use a large bedside lamp. I set the SunRizer for a 30 minute sunrise and almost always wake up a few minutes before my alarm clock goes off (at the end of the 30 minutes). I also have another alarm clock with the light and timer built in, but it isn’t as good or as flexible as the Sun Rizer so I don’t… Read more »
Barb
Barb
5 years 8 months ago
I use a dawn simulator and find it works great for waking up AND combating SAD. They are easier to use than light boxes – you don’t have to park yourself in front of one for any length of time. Every single day you receive your treatment without having to even think about it. The gradually increasing light at “dawn” stimulates production of cortisol in a more normal way. I try to get outside for a walk during daylight hours everyday that I am not at work as well. I haven’t had a bout of SAD in years now, since… Read more »
I_EAT_COWS
I_EAT_COWS
2 years 10 months ago
I love my dawn simulator! – I have one you can plug a normal light in to. I find it more effective and more convenient than the light box. It helps me wake up early, have more energy and better mood during the day, and get sleepy and be able to sleep at the right time for a better nights rest. The main downside to this is it’s not compatible with sharing a bed with someone who doesn’t get up before the sun like you :/ – if needed I do use my light box in the AM when I… Read more »
nelly
nelly
5 years 8 months ago

I’ve had a wakeup light for about 5 years already and it is a blessing! So much easier to get up in the morning. I also have a lightbox just at mu desk (distance is safe to keep it on for long hours).
It has made a HUGE difference in my life. Best stent money ever(it’s not that much money either).

Katherine
Katherine
5 years 8 months ago
I have SAD, or rather I battle depression all year round but it’s a lot worse in the winter. I use a lightbox, it is one with extra blue light but lots of white light as well so is supposed to be safer than a blue one as your eyes will be adjusted for bright light so protected against damage. It’s a natty, portable, rechargeable one, the Lumie Zip. I do find it helps, getting outside every day is still important though. I haven’t had any side effects except minor headaches the first few days I used it when I… Read more »
trina
trina
5 years 8 months ago
The white lights for SAD also work, and if they don’t wreck your eyes they may be a better deal in the long run. So I’m not sure you should be recommending the blue over the full spectrum at this point. I find researchers for depression are always looking for fast results, but slow, steady and long lasting results that can be maintained might be better for a life long disease. This may not be true for everyone, but it was immediately obvious to me that the light was having an effect. I just went into the store, stared at… Read more »
Kim
Kim
5 years 8 months ago

I bought a Happy Light a few years ago and my body always tells me when I need to start using it in the fal. Love it.

Rocknroll
Rocknroll
5 years 8 months ago

This is one of those posts where I glance at the title and think, “Welp, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.”

I have some family that suffer from SAD and it’s a real drag. Keep on the sunny side SAD sufferers.

Ashley
Ashley
5 years 8 months ago
unfortunately i live where there is a ton of lake effect snow and see the sun maybe twice a month in the winter. I was diagnosed with SAD a few years ago, and suprisingly my doctor recommended tanning beds. I only go once or twice a week, for half of the max time (5 minutes in a 10 minute max bed), and take vitamin D supplements on days I don’t. I think im lucky that my doctor would rather me try natural cures than prescribe me medication- he even supported me going primal(not that that would have stopped me, i… Read more »
trina
trina
5 years 8 months ago

yeah, my doctor is supportive, but my health plan isn’t. They won’t pay for the light, even though it was invented by doctors and proven to work, but they’ll pay for all the drugs I could ask for, even though the light is cheaper in the long run! go figure.
Does your body make vit D from the artificial tanning?

Ashley
Ashley
5 years 8 months ago

As long as the bulbs used in tanning have UVB rays (Usually they’re 5% UVB) you can get vitamin D. the UVB is what is needed for your body to produce Vitamin D.
this is a link to an organization the salon that i go to belongs to. there is more info on tanning, UV and vitmain D
I hope it answers your questions!
http://www.tancanada.org/info.php

Simon Fellows
Simon Fellows
5 years 8 months ago
Alright hominoids this is easy. I’ve made 3 light boxes and they work a dream as have tested with commercially sold and very well made types and ours work equally as well save ours cost about 140 bucks less. Solux 3500k 12 v 50 watt 24 degree spot. Attch with mr 16 connectors which cost a dollar or 2.. a transformer will be 20-30 bucks. Or you can buy a gooseneck light which works well but costs more. ref how they work..if you genuinely are SAD most people i’ve loaned ours too notice a flip up in mood after the… Read more »
Simon Fellows
Simon Fellows
5 years 8 months ago

p.s something one can also do and i did then when in Ft McMurray some years ago…stick it on a timer and it’ll wake you up very nicely.
And to the fella above whom says it doesnt affect him family member aside…either the fella lives somewhere sunny or he’s talking tripe!

Renan
Renan
5 years 8 months ago

Hey Anne, probiotics worked for me. I was getting constipated constantly. So I read somewhere that probiotics might help and it did!!! I go once or twice a day now with no problem. Hope this helps!

Naomi
Naomi
5 years 8 months ago

I suffer from SAD, the solution i found worked for me without spending lots of money. They have full spectrum light bulbs, so what I did was put the spectrum light bulbs in most of my lights, but left a few so i could have quiet light. it seems to help me .

another thing i heard was if you have your own office change your light to full spectrum. I know cause in an office that had them it was great. i didn`t feel down.

those soon suggestion 🙂

Cj
Cj
5 years 8 months ago
Oh! Poor girl. I have SAD, control it with everything Mark talked about, and have not been bothered in YEARS. Diet is everything. Get the Thyroid checked. Living in a place like Florida will not help. I was at my worst in Florida. Now live in Minnesota, the third sunniest state of the 48 contiguous states, and it has made a difference. (We have VERY long summer days, not a lot of clouds. Storms roll up, cut loose, then move east). But…just as Mark alluded to, you ARE what you put into your body. Omega 3’s are essential. Good vitamins… Read more »
Cj
Cj
5 years 8 months ago

Oh…and stay away from processed carbs and sugar…they ARE depressants!

Nathan
5 years 8 months ago

I live in Canada and it gets real dark during the winter. I definitely suffer from the winter blues.

Vitamin D seems to be the ticket. I started with 1,000 IU’s a day and realized that it was a drop in the bucket. Now I use 4,000 IU’s a day and feel awesome. Also, making a point to get outside during the day seems to help as well.

Marsha Stopa
5 years 8 months ago
Thanks for this post, Mark, and shedding more “light” on this topic. I’m a health coach who teaches people how to beat the blues, primarily with light therapy. I figured out how to deal with SAD more than 10 years ago. I only disagree with your recommendations on one point — the use of isolated blue lights or boosted blue light boxes. As you say, blue light has been implicated in long-term retinal damage. With all the choices on the market, why take a risk? I had a Phillips goLite and traded it for a Litebook, a small, white LED.… Read more »
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Madeleine
Madeleine
5 years 8 months ago

I have tried light therapy and it works for a while but then I finally preferred to be outdoor with friends or children or simply by myself specially going out at noon.

Faky
Faky
5 years 8 months ago
I have slight SAD- but serious insomnia. What I’ve done to counteract both is to have a Happy Light on a timer next to my bed that turns on every morning at a predetermined time- I actually have it on a vacation/weekly timer, so my husband can sleep in. I also have a regular table lamp on the other side of the room which comes on a bit before the Happy Light, for a bit of a “sunrise” effect- we have light-blocking curtains as well as blinds. For the rest of the house- a couple of our table lamps are… Read more »
Sona
Sona
5 years 8 months ago

I have an unrelated question – is there even any point trying to do PB if yu are a vegetarian (who will not eat soy)? I have hyperthyroid graves disease & am vegetarian by culture (Indian) – not vegan though. Anyone here a vegetarian & found success?
TIA

Aram Hovsepian
5 years 8 months ago

Unless you’re very spiritually advanced and know exectly why and what you’re doing, becoming a Primal Vegeterian will make you a food for Primal Carnivores

Aram Hovsepian
5 years 8 months ago
To manufacture Vitamin D from sunlight, your body needs a very basic building block – Cholesterol. Vast majority of people are scared of it without even knowing how important cholesterol is for our health. Besides Vitamin D, your all sex and stress hormones are made out of cholesterol. The fact is that you can’t overdose on Vitamin D if it was produced by your body but you can easily overdose on artificial, processed, isolated Vitamin D supplement. Eat grass-fed raw butter, drink raw milk and go out on the sun when it is available and connect with nature. And if… Read more »
Phocion Timon
Phocion Timon
5 years 8 months ago

I read, somewhere, in the recent past that Vitamin D supplementation will allow one to keep a tan through the winter months and I’ll be damned if it isn’t working. Back in September I deepened my summer tan while on the beach for a week. Now, in January, my tan is still noticeable. It’s not as dark but my skin is still brown. Amazing.

perl
perl
5 years 8 months ago

Important point: If you’re going to use a light box, position it *above* the eye (and about 1-2 feet away) so that the light hits the receptors bottom of the retina.

Digby
Digby
5 years 8 months ago

Put full-spectrum bulbs in bathroom lights over sinks, and in reading lamps ( need bulb exposed), which makes it easy to get several minutes of exposure daily.

sona
sona
5 years 8 months ago

Aram, that was not really helpful…yes i know primal = carnivore, that is why i am asking if anyone found success while still being vegetarian . I dislike the taste, texture & smell of meat, so its not going to happen (already tried). Can’t do soy because of thyroid issue. I eat eggs & dairy though.

Chris
Chris
5 years 8 months ago

it is the wrong mindset to be “battling” depression/SAD or to say you’ve been “clinically diagnosed” as someone who has over 20 years experience with this I can say it’s a defeatist attitude.

Besides what has been suggested already,try adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola ectract in the Am and holy basil extract in the PM. Reishi,cordyceps,ginseng…all good

Susan
5 years 8 months ago

Yeah this is a pretty serious condition. I hate the darkness. One of my tricks I use to feel better is to exercise at night. I know it might be hard for some to get motivated enough to even do it, but with all the great feel good hormones that will circulate through your body as a result of the activity, I am sure it is a great temporary pick me up. DO this every night for continual good feelings!

Heather
Heather
5 years 8 months ago

Several years ago I suffered a major depressive episode, which slowly got better but still morphed into SAD (with severe sleeping difficulties) every winter. My psychiatrist had me use a blue light box, which was a decent help. But this winter, a combination of diet and vitamin D and blackout curtains has kept the SAD at bay! I wouldn’t be surprised if I get the winter blues, but I’ve cured the worst of it.

David
David
5 years 8 months ago

SAD is a serious problem here in Alaska. I think right now we have about four hours of light per day. One of the professors here at the university suggested light therapy and even has light boxes available to rent (free, actually). He says that fifteen minutes per day will help to re-establish your Circadian clock. Thanks for the information in the article. =)

SophieLovesPink
5 years 8 months ago
I live in the UK. Have been reading this website and a few others for the past few days and ordered Mark’s book and am about to ‘go primal’. We have very short days in the winter here – we go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. It took me a few years to realise that I suffer from SAD quite badly – but it didn’t affect me until March time (ie it took a long time to build up), but by March I’d have no energy whatsoever, be going to bed at 8pm and… Read more »
Hannah
5 years 8 months ago
I’m a writer and I’ve done some work on seasonal psychology. I read some studies recently suggesting that SAD is caused not just by a lack of sunlight but also by the timing of sunlight during winter – it messes up our circadian rhythms. So scheduling a sunrise date with your lightbox is the most effective use of the machine. Studies also show that SAD is less common in super-dark places like Greenland, where polar night can last for four months. So, as many people said before me, it’s not just about sunlight and supplements. Awareness of seasonal changes in… Read more »
J. Jacobsen
5 years 8 months ago
Living in northern Minnesota, between the reduced daylight hours and frigid temps, SAD is quite common. Considering the undesirable side-effects (including an increased risk of suicide) of the anti-depressants (SSRIs) doctors commonly prescribe for SAD, light therapy is an excellent alternative. Research has shown that light therapy is just as effective as anti-depressants too. Unfortuantely, one of the biggest reasons for noncompliance with light therapy is having to sit nearby a SAD light for 30 minutes in the morning. However, now they make a light called the “Feel Bright Light.” The Feel Bright Light is attatched to a visor so… Read more »
Stewart
Stewart
5 years 3 months ago

I don’t have thhis problem in Australia!
where i live is at 32 degrees from the equator so we dont get the seasonal variation you guys get and SAD is non existant. ANYWAY, there is a good recent article in the NEW SCIENTIST magazine about the new trend in Home LED technology being too “blue” and disturbing sleep as blue light prevents release of seratonin (or melatonin, i forget). basically good sleep, bluer wavelengths first thing in the morning to wake you up, and yellower/redder ones (NO blue)to lull you to bed.

Karen vW
4 years 10 months ago

Since moving from South Africa to the UK I’ve found myself becoming virtually non-functional from November until late April/early May.

I use a Britebox SAD light which does help a bit, but I’m hoping to see a big difference this year since going primal in August.

One thing I was told is to never use St John’s Wort in conjunction with light box therapy as that can increase the risk of retinal damage.

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[…] Dear Mark: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Box Therapy – Because there’s more than one SAD to worry about when it comes to health and happiness. […]

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[…] 30-DAY PALEO CHALLENGE, Day 10 — LINKS JAMA study: Effect of protein on fat gain while overeating Why you want more stomach acid, not less Are roasted nuts and nut-based baked goods healthy? When eating healthy turns obsessive Seasonal affective disorder and light-box therapy […]

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4 years 8 months ago

[…] a great “Dear Mark” post on the subject earlier this month. Check it out to get the down-low on SAD, and ways to counteract it and GET […]

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[…] get outside during the day and get natural light exposure when you need it. Because it’s true: you need it – at the right times – to maintain proper circadian […]

Rachel
Rachel
4 years 4 months ago

I have SAD , except my despression worsens at night , every night .

Hilary
Hilary
3 years 11 months ago

Oh me too. I have to take anxiety medicine most nights because I get panicky when the sun sets. I’m *not* looking forward to the impending time change. I’m hoping some light therapy works.

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[…] Sisson on Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I myself suffer […]

Kristina
Kristina
2 years 10 months ago
I know this is an old post, but I wanted to add my 2 cents anyway. I’ve had seasonal changes in my mood and energy for as long as I can remember and have been diagnosed with SAD, but I’m not sure that it is a pathology. I think it is a natural, primal adaptation to help us survive the long, dark winters in northern climates where you need to spend long dark hours in sheltered locations. Think how bad your cabin fever would be if you didn’t have a reduced energy level and didn’t want to sleep most of… Read more »
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[…] seasonal deficits. We can spend more time outside during peak sunlight hours, use light boxes—still the most recognized and recommended SAD […]

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