by Catherine Pratt
Please note that I am not a doctor and I have no medical experience. All these SAD FAQ's are based strictly on my own personal experience with SAD. It is always best to get a medical opinion when dealing with issues with your health.
Here are just some of the questions I've received lately:
My doctor says SAD is strictly psychological? Do you agree with that?
I guess it depends on what they mean "strictly psychological". If they mean that they think it's all in your head, then I definitely don't agree. If it was all in your head then why would sitting in front of a special lamp make any difference at all?
I think the most common belief now (in Canada anyway) is that if some people don't get enough light then they don't produce enough of certain brain chemicals including Serontonin. Serontonin regulates one's mood etc. So, I guess it's how you look at it whether that's psychological or chemical. I think it's a chemical reason why you're feeling so tired but I guess it could be considered psychological as well cause your moods are off. I can't say for sure. I haven't been to a doctor in a long time to discuss SAD with them so I don't know what a doctor would tell me nowadays. I only know what I've personally experienced. When I did go to doctors, the most common thing they would recommend is to go on anti-depressants. I'd much rather use my light, eat properly, and not have to use drugs.
How do I know for sure if I have SAD or not?
Take a look at some of the SAD Symptoms I experience and see if you can relate to any of them.
If you're feeling unbelievably tired all the time then one of the easiest ways to find out if you have SAD or not is to use a SAD light for about a week and see if you notice an improvement.
Do you have sore and tired eyes?
Yes, I do find that my eyes get sore and tired. I've never really associated it with the SAD before but I suppose it may have something to do with it.
I'm never able to keep mascara on very long because I rub them so much. I'll have to pay attention to that and see if it does happen more often during the times when I need to use my light more.
Do you find that you crave the sun? I feel that I NEED to be in the sun as much as possible in the summer.
Yes, I definitely crave the sun. I just feel so much better after I've been in the sun.
I can definitely relate to the feeling of having to be in the sun as much as you can. I'm not sure if it's an official symptom of SAD but I do experience this. I find that even in the summer, if I go a few days without sunlight, then I start to feel just desperate for sunshine. Almost like I'm drowning and I have to get sunlight so that I can breathe again. I'll even start feeling like I need to go to the airport and book a flight to just anywhere that's having sunshine. As soon as I get the sunshine again, it's such a relief.
I try to soak up as much sunlight as I can summer and winter. Just can't get enough.
In the Fall, I can almost tell you to the day when the sun suddenly isn't as intense anymore as we go into Winter. I very much need the sunlight.
The SAD light I have helps a lot but I still always have that craving for real sunshine.
Do you think using a SAD light would damage your eyes?
I suppose you can't say anything is 100% safe. There are risks with everything you do. There have been reports that the SAD lights that strictly use the blue wavelength, "blue SAD lights", could potentially cause damage.
Research into SAD and using lightboxes for it has been around since 1979 so this isn't something new and untested. I've been using the light myself for at least 10 years now and it hasn't done anything to my eyes, knock on wood : - )
If you have a pre-existing eye condition, you would definitely want to check with your eye doctor first to make sure that it won't cause any issues for you.
Do you use your light all year round or just during the winter?
I use my light year round. I use it much less in the summer but I do use it during times when the weather is overcast and grey for a few days. I also discovered last year that if I'm working in an office that is dark and has very few windows, then I need to use my light almost every day.
Do you get a headache when you use your SAD light?
Some people find that they get a headache when they first start to use
one. I didn't but people who were near me who didn't have SAD tended to
say it gave them a headache. I tend to get a lot of headaches all on
my own and I find that it can be hard to use the light when I have a
headache but that's about it.
How long do you use it for every day?
I sit in front of my light for about 15 - 30 minutes.
Can I use it at night?
The recommendation is that you use your light first thing in the morning. For some people, if they use it at night, it disrupts their sleep patterns.
Do I need to look directly at the light?
No. It's not recommended that you look at the light. Use it more like you would a normal desk lamp. Think of it more like you don't look directly at the sun yet you still feel its effects. When you're using your light, don't wear sunglasses and remember that your eyes do need to be open.
Do I need to expose more of my skin when using it?
No, it's through your eyes that you absorb the increase in light.
Some SAD lights mention something called "lux". What is that and how much should a lamp provide?
LUX is a measurement of light. To put it into perspective, on a bright sunny day, you would get about 100,000 lux. On a cloudy, overcast day, you would get about 10,000 lux. Normal home and office lighting provides about 1,000 lux.
In a SAD light, I think you would want a minimum of 10,000 lux. That's what my SADelite provides. Otherwise, you would need to spend much longer in front of it. I've only seen lux mentioned with the fluorescent tube lights. Not sure why that is but don't be too concerned if you don't see it mentioned when you're looking at the SAD lights that use LEDs.
Feel free to ask me any questions you have using the following form. I'll do my best to answer it. As I mentioned at the top, I'm not a doctor so any advice I give you is just from what I've personally experienced.
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