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Motherboard

Cure Winter Laziness with S.A.D. Lights

It’s not just you, the winter blues are a real thing. S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects many people in colder climates. When the days start to get shorter, when the weather starts to get colder, most people feel a loss of energy, which is...

by Ana Tiwathia
Feb 17 2012, 5:30pm

It's not just you, the winter blues are a real thing. S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects many people in colder climates. When the days start to get shorter, when the weather starts to get colder, most people feel a loss of energy, which is natural in winter months. But for some, the decreased energy, insomnia, and urge to eat more carbohydrates than is truly decent, marks the onset of significant seasonal depression.

It is thought that this response to winter is actually an evolutionary holdover from our hibernating days that’s now irrelevant and bothersome. The specific cause of and treatment for S.A.D. is still under investigation, but most agree that light has a lot to do with it. Presumably lack of light triggers an increased production of the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy. So, if you can use light to curb the increased melatonin and stimulate other hormones like serotonin you might start to feel better. While there is evidence that antidepressants also help with SAD, light therapy has been proven to work faster.

S.A.D. lights make winter not suck.

The New York Times mentioned the value of light therapy over pharmaceutical remedies, writing "A 2006 multicenter double-blind randomized controlled trial that compared bright-light therapy head to head with the popular antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) in 96 subjects found the two treatments equally effective for alleviating winter depression, though light produced results faster, usually within a week, and with fewer side effects."

Need more sunlight? Stick a giant mirror-like heliostat outside your window.

There are a wide variety of SAD treatment lights available these days. You can get a desk lamp, a floor lamp, a portable light for your purse (for light emergencies) or a screen to slide into the console of your treadmill, and so on.

You can also try a dawn simulator for $174. They haven't been researched as thoroughly as the SAD treatment lights, but do help pry you out of bed on those dark winter morning (or if your bedroom happens to be a shuttered dark hole because someone is shooting a reality TV show about a bike gang right outside your window). Anyway…

This wonderful image of a negative air ionizer just makes it feel like summer, doesn’t it?

Negative air ionizers have also proven successful as a component of SAD treatment. Negative ion generators may produce an environment that the brain perceives as summery. If that doesn’t sound enticing, you could also rig up a computer-controlled heliostat that reflects natural sunlight light from a window. Or just get over yourself and move to So-Cal already.