I'm gonna let it shine...
It’s pouring down rain outside my window as I write this, which seems extra appropriate.
Raise your hand if you are one of the millions of people who suffer with some degree of Seasonal Depression. Maybe you just get a mild case of the February Blues, or maybe (like me) you are apt to fall down a deep, dark, hole of despair during our winter months. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. If you fall anywhere on the spectrum (haha, that’s a light pun!) of Seasonal Affective Disorder, you’ll want to keep reading.
I’ve written on here before about my struggle with SAD. It’s not a big secret. Over the years I’ve tried various treatments to combat it: Vitamins and nutritional supplements, exercise, strict schedules, medications, with varying degrees of success. But this year, I was given a therapy light. A SunTouch Plus to be exact. And man-o-man! This thing is FANTASTIC! What the heck is a therapy light, you might be asking. Well, let me illuminate the topic…..
****First off, I’m not being paid or compensated in any way for writing this. My light was a Christmas gift from my sweetie’s Aunt and Uncle.*****
Therapy lights can be used to combat the symptoms of seasonal depression and/or sleep disorders by mimicking the intense natural light at the North Pole, and helping to reset the body’s circadian rhythm. My particular light, the SunTouch Plus, produces 10,000 LUX light (17,000 Kelvin UV-free light), and also produces negative ions (that’s the Plus part). While the science regarding negative ions is a bit sketchy, the research on light being essential for proper sleep cycles and helping to improve depression is sound.
We NEED light in order to be healthy. Unfortunately, during the fall, winter, and early spring seasons most of us in the Northern Hemisphere simply can’t get adequate sunlight. This can lead to insomnia/disordered sleep, weight gain, depression, and low Vitamin D levels. Most of us are keyed in to the need to supplement with Vitamin D during the winter (I take 5,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 every day), but using light therapy can be a life-saver for many people. By spending 30-45 minutes a day bathing in the light of my SunTouch Plus, I’ve been able to sleep through the night much more regularly, I’ve avoided the pit of despair that has plagued me almost every winter of my adult life, and I’ve dodged the yearly carb cravings and attendant weight gain. I really wish I had one of these lights 20 years ago. There have been days where I’ve actually felt genuinely HAPPY this winter. If you have SAD, you know how huge that is.
Before you even ask, I’ll tell you Tanning Beds do NOT do the same thing. I hear that from people a lot around here. Tanning Beds use UV light, which is what causes your skin to tan. The light emitted by a therapy light is UV free, which is important to note. In order to be effective, the light must enter your eyes indirectly (don’t stare directly into your light!) without harming your vision. UV light causes cataracts, skin cancer, and other vision problems…that’s why sunglasses and car windows are made from glass that filters out UV light and why you must wear goggles in a tanning bed. So, no you can’t head down to your local tanning salon and get the same benefits. Why would you do that to your skin anyway? Ew.
How long do you have to sit in front of this thing though, to feel results? Well, that depends. How severe is your SAD? How messed up is your sleep? Mine is pretty serious, so I use mine almost every day. I have it on my bedside table/desk and bask in it’s glow while I work. I set the timer for 45 minutes, turn on the ionizer feature (this is optional, and as I said there really isn’t hard science to back up using this particular feature, I just like the way it makes my room smell like I just vacuumed) and do my research, writing and coaching. Since you aren’t looking directly at the light, you can go on with your work without interruption. I’ve also set it up on the floor and used it while I practice yoga. It’s like doing yoga on a really sunny day at the beach—10,000 LUX is very bright! Ideally, your light should be 16-24 inches away from your face, so using it during yoga isn’t going to be as effective as having it sitting on your desk or tabletop, but on very dark days I like to add that into the mix and get a little extra exposure. It might be purely a placebo effect, but either way I feel happier, and more energetic.
You might be wondering if there are any downsides, and as with anything there are some potential problems with using a therapy light. If you have Bi-Polar disorder, you could induce a manic phase by using these lights. If you have a BPD diagnosis, or think you might have this condition please consult your doctor. Therapy lights are also contraindicated for use with some health conditions (specifically Lupus), medications, and supplements which cause light sensitivity. So if you are taking antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or St. John’s Wort, talk with your health care provider first. Some people may also experience bouts of nausea, headache, or eyestrain when first using light therapy, but these are generally short-lived. If they continue or get worse, suspend using the light and see your doctor.
Even with those caveats, I highly recommend giving light therapy a try if you have trouble with SAD. This has been a real boon to my life, and I do really wish I had tried it sooner. You can find the model I use here If you’re like me, and need an extra boost to get through the winter, I hope you’ll check it out. And let me know how it works out for you.
Thanks for reading!