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How to recognize and treat seasonal depression


Light boxes – devices that produce artificial light similar to sunlight – can be an effective way to correct this. In a meta-analysis of 19 studies, light therapy was superior to placebo; another small study found that 61% of light therapy patients saw their symptoms of depression decrease within four weeks.

There is some evidence that sitting in front of a 10,000 lux light box (the measure of light intensity) for 30 to 45 minutes each day at sunrise in fall and winter decreases symptoms of SAD. If you are currently having symptoms of SAD, it is not too late to start. You can also start treating symptoms for the next season in the fall.

As tempting as it may be to hit the snooze button on weekends, Dr Desan said your mood will start to drop again if you don’t do your treatment every day at sunrise, so incorporate light therapy. in your life. Most research-grade light boxes allow you to sit at arm’s length and move your head, so you should be able to have breakfast, drink coffee, or read.

An efficient softbox usually costs at least $ 100, but not all options are as efficient. Of the 24 devices tested by Dr. Desan in 2019, only seven met clinical criteria. The others weren’t as effective as the research-grade boxes.

According to Anna Wirz-Justice, professor emeritus at the Center for Chronobiology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, natural light is not only cheaper than a light box, it is also brighter. Sunrise light is equivalent to 1000 lux. A rainy morning provides around 10,000 lux, and the snow on the ground is even brighter, at 50,000 lux.

Try to be outside within 30 minutes of sunrise. “You don’t need to see the sun cross the horizon,” Dr. Huberman said. “What you are looking for is the quality of the light that occurs when the sun is low in the sky.”

The length of time depends on where you live and the weather. Dr Huberman suggested about five minutes outside if it’s clear or 10-15 minutes if it’s cloudy. You can wear glasses or contact lenses, but avoid sunglasses and never look directly at the sun.


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