With autumn well and truly among us and winter edging ever closer, now is the right time to invest in a 'SAD' or 'sunlight' lamp if you feel it might benefit you.
Known officially as a type of light therapy, you might want to use it to help with your low mood and difficulty getting up in the morning, or simply as some welcome brightness in darker months.
But what exactly is a SAD lamp and who might benefit from one?
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
It's first useful to understand what seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is – what the lamps get their nickname from – before understanding what they're used for.
SAD itself is known as a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, sometimes referred to as 'winter depression' as symptoms are often worse during this time (though others could feel the effects more in the summer).
You might experience persistent low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feeling lethargic and sleepy in the day, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get out of bed, craving carbs, difficulty concentrating and decreased sex drive, according to the NHS.
While these feelings may not be permanent, for some they can be extreme and cause a big impact to day-to-day activities. It is always important to see your GP if you are burdened by symptoms, who can recommend the right treatment for you.
What is a SAD lamp?
Light therapy is used as one type of potential treatment for the condition SAD, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication.
The NHS points out that some people who have SAD find light therapy helps to improve their mood considerably. You might sit by a special lamp called a light box (or SAD lamp) for around half an hour every morning.
The bright light from the box or lamp helps to replicate the sunlight you're missing during the darker months, with the intensity measured in 'lux'. A high lux means a high brightness.
The theory is that light might improve SAD by helping your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you feel sleepy) and instead boost the production of serotonin (that affects your mood).
You can now find different variations of light boxes, including sunrise alarm clocks that gradually light up your bedroom to help you wake up, which you might prefer.
Who can use SAD lamps?
Most people can use SAD lamps and light therapy safely, though ones with filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to prevent risk of skin or eye damage is key.
While they are generally fine to use, exposure to this type of bright light might not be suitable if you have an eye condition or eye damage that makes them sensitive to light, or are taking medication that increases your sensitivity.
Light boxes aren't usually available on the NHS, so you need to buy one yourself. Check whether it's suitable for treating SAD and that it's medically approved to do so (if that's what you're after), the light intensity you should be using and the suggested length of time you need to use it for.
Of course if you just need a bit of extra help with waking up in the mornings, for example, you can still enjoy the benefits of certain light boxes.
See the NHS website for more information on the condition SAD and light therapy.
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