By my side is a LitePod belting out 10,000 lux of light, bathing me in an unearthly glow. It looks amazing, but it’s not there for aesthetics. I’m one of the vast number of people in Britain who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and I’m hoping this little pod might lift my spirits. SAD is under-diagnosed, under-treated and undeniably miserable. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel – light being the operative word.
Research has shown clearly that light therapy can help banish the winter blues and there is now a rash of products on the market. But can you trust all the claims, and what about new developments?
Professor Michael Terman directs the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center in the United States. He is also founder and president of the Center for Environmental Therapeutics (CET), an international consortium of doctors and researchers working on mood and sleep disorders.
“Light therapy, properly dosed, shows improvement more rapidly than antidepressants, with fewer side effects,” he says. “That’s why it has become the first-line intervention for treatment of winter depression.”
When light hits the retina of the eye, chemical messages are sent to the hypothalamus in the brain, regulating a host of activities – sleep, sex drive, appetite, temperature, energy levels and, crucially, mood. If there’s not enough light, these functions gradually become slower and slower. So adding bright light to the dull winter equation resets the balance.