While many people associate winter with hot chocolate and cozy evenings by the fireplace, more and more people are experiencing the winter blues. In fact, approximately 1 in 20 people in the northern half of the U.S. live through short, dark days during winter, leaving them exposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With this many people affected by SAD, it's important to understand what the disorder is, what symptoms to look out for, and how to treat (and prevent) the effects of SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that affects people during the winter season. SAD is also known as "winter depression" since the symptoms are more prevalent during the winter months. However, those who experience SAD during the winter may have similar feelings during the summer as well.
SAD is linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain due to shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. This shift in the circadian rhythm can cause a disconnect resulting in SAD.
While some people may experience mild winter blues, those with SAD experience more severe symptoms affecting everyday life. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feelings of despair, worthlessness, and guilt
- A frequent low mood
- A loss of pleasure and interest in everyday activities
- Sleeping longer than normal
- Struggling to get up in the morning
- Feeling lethargic and sleepy throughout the day
- Weight gain and carb cravings
For people with SAD, the hardest periods tend to be January and February; however, these symptoms can last for the better half of a year. The symptoms listed above show how distressing SAD symptoms can be in a person’s life. However, it can be treated non-pharmaceutically with the help of red light therapy.
Does light therapy actually work for SAD?
The short answer, yes: light therapy is effective in treating seasonal affective disorder. During the winter season, it’s extremely challenging to get the natural light your body needs since the days are shorter and darker. In addition, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, furthering the problem. This is where red light therapy comes into play.
Red light therapy is a natural light treatment that sends red and near-infrared wavelengths deep into body tissues, positively affecting the mitochondria. Stimulating the cells increases ATP energy production, decreases inflammation, improves neuroplasticity, and boosts cerebral metabolism.
Two meta-analyses of randomized, controlled trials indicated that light therapy was effective in treating SAD. Another study found that over four weeks, 61% out of the 33 patients who underwent light therapy saw their symptoms vanish, in comparison to the 32 percent who received a placebo.
However, beyond the direct treatment of depression, light therapy helps with sleep disorders. Natural light treatment, like red light therapy, helps improve sleep as it increases the body’s natural production of melatonin.
Red light therapy doesn’t simply treat symptoms, but it helps treat the root problem, which is a lack of natural light. The dark winter months are challenging for millions of Americans suffering from SAD. But, by receiving more natural light during the short and dark winter days, you can eliminate your symptoms, heal the problem, and feel like yourself again.
Luckily, Kaiyan Medical produces MDSAP-certified and FDA-approved light therapy products and devices for your own at-home treatment or even for your patients. We've worked hard to provide solutions for both patients and healthcare practitioners, catering to various needs. Whether you're looking to private label your own light therapy devices or for home use, contact our team, as we would love to help you through your light therapy journey.