Does SAD lamp or Light therapy actually work?

A woman sitting in a dark room dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winters can be really grim for a lot of us. The cold, dark and damp atmosphere can be brutal for your mental health. And the pandemic sure hasn’t helped. But if the gloominess just doesn’t seem to go away and has seriously started to affect you, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD generally occurs during winter months when your exposure to sunlight decreases significantly. As a result, many people recommend light therapy for SAD. If you’ve never heard of it before, it might seem a bit strange. You might think to yourself, “how could a lamp cure my SAD?”. But you might be surprised by what other people have to say about it. So, today let’s talk about light therapy and whether it actually works. But before we do that, let’s look a little bit into SAD itself first.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

As Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., a pioneer in SAD research, puts it:

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs regularly, every autumn and winter, when the days get short and dark, though it may occur at other times as well. The reason it occurs mostly during the winter months is that one of the main causes of the condition is a lack of sunlight. Other situations in which people don’t get enough sunlight include cloudy or rainy periods at other times of year, living in dark places and working for long hours in dark offices. Whenever there is insufficient sunlight, those people who are vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder may develop symptoms.”

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.
Credit: Norman E. Rosenthal

Now that we know what SAD is, let’s see what some of the symptoms are and how light therapy can help with SAD.

Related: Combating Post Holiday Blues & Seasonal Depression In January 2021

What are the symptoms of SAD?

According to Mayo Clinic, the following are some of the signs and symptoms of SAD:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Additionally, winter SAD symptoms may also include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to a mental health specialist. You can find more resources here.

Light therapy, the use of a lamp or light box as an artificial source of light, is said to be very helpful in treatment option for SAD.

So, what is light therapy exactly and how does a lamp help cure SAD?

According to .Mayo Clinic, light therapy basically involves the patient being exposed to an artificial light source as a way to mimic natural light. You’re basically supposed to do your work, attend online classes, watch random youtube videos, near a device known as light therapy box. It looks like a lamp, and it’s supposed to help with SAD.

While research on light therapy helping with SAD is inconclusive, it is thought to affect certain brain chemicals that might put you at ease.

So, while light therapy alone will not cure SAD, it can certainly make you feel better. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that light therapy does help with SAD.

Related: Mental Health During COVID-19: Preserving Yourself With Mindful Wellness Habits

What is a good lamp or light box to help with SAD?

Roomi recommended SAD lamp: Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp

The Carex Day-light is the best option you have at its price point. It has a surface area of 15.5 by 13.5 inches and generates 10,000 lux. Because of the downward motion of the light, it’s always glare-free. If you want to invest in a good lamp for light therapy to help with SAD, this is the one you should go with.

Credit: Amazon.com

The adjustable SAD Lamp: Verilux HappyLight Liberty

If you want  a more compact lamp to help with SAD, you might want to consider the Verilux HappyLight Liberty. It’s a 41-inch screen that generates 10,000 lux light. You can also change its lenses and intensity depending on what you want.

Credit: Amazon.com

The budget friendly SAD lamp: Miroco Light Therapy Lamp

We know many can’t afford to spend a fortune on a lamp. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use light therapy to cure your SAD. Check out this compact SAD lamp that costs less than $40 and still delivers 10,000 lux brightness.

Credit: Amazon.com

Related: 6 Tips for Anxiety and Stress Management

So light therapy won’t cure your SAD, it might make you feel better. And sometimes that’s the best one can hope for in times like these. You might find that it eases your symptoms and makes you feel more energized. But remember to give it some time. Things won’t change overnight, but with time you might find that light therapy does help you. But make sure you also talk to a mental health specialist in addition to light therapy. They’ll be able to give you the personalized attention and guidance you need to get better.

D’you know what else Roomi does outside of helping its readers find out if light therapy actualy helps with SAD? With our ever-increasing lists of rooms and roommates across the world, we help you find your perfect match! Download the app here and hop on the easiest ride home, ever!