Using Light Therapy to Treat SAD
As we are past daylight savings times, the days are getting shorter every single day. Our time with precious sunlight gets shorter and shorter every day. Not to mention the classic New England weather that we can soon expect; the regular cold air and darkness takes a serious toll on our emotional wellbeing year after year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is very common. Up to 3 million people will experience some degree of SAD each year. It is especially common in more northern regions such as New England. Fortunately, SAD is very treatable. One of the most common recommendations for the treatment of SAD is to get sunlight (or artificial sunlight)!
The reason that sunlight is recommended to treat SAD is because sunlight helps our body activate and use Vitamin D. Research has also shown that there is a link between low levels of Vitamin D in the body and risk of depression. Meaning that the lower levels of Vitamin D you have, the more likely you are to experience SAD or other depressive symptoms. So, if you get enough regular sunlight, your levels of Vitamin D remain high, and symptoms of depression and SAD are decreased. Yes, it’s that simple.
Now if you are anything like me, fair skinned with light hair color and eye color; getting sunlight may seem like a good idea, but only if you load up with SPF 50 first! And if you find yourself living in an area that just doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, or you have a work schedule that prevents you from ever seeing the sun – like working full time night shifts; worry not. Using artificial sunlight through Light Therapy can mimic sitting in the sun and help to treat your SAD. Even better, there are no harmful UVA or UVB rays so there is no need for SPF!
UNH students, faculty and staff have access to free Light Therapy through Health & Wellness. The light therapy appointments last 20 minutes and you can sit in a private room in front of the light box. I have utilized this service countless times to get through the cold and dark winters in Durham, NH. I can definitely say that this helped me ease some of my seasonal depression symptoms. Even if you feel as though you might not need Light Therapy for SAD, there is something that is just so relaxing about sitting in the light in the winter. If you are interested in trying Light Therapy, make an appointment through Health & Wellness here. Email us to let us know what you think at Healthy.UNH@unh.edu!