By Mike Zimmerman
The use of light therapy as a treatment for SAD syndrome, properly named seasonable affective disorder, is well known to, and generally recommended by, the medical profession. Millions of poor souls are affected by seasonal affective disorder and while most of us look forward to Christmas all they experience is depression and a craving for starchy and sugary foods.
Sufferers become lethargic, feel tired even after sleep, and can suffer physical pain in the joints and abdomen. They can feel despair, guilt with nothing to be guilty about, and severe anxiety. Frustration and irritability for no apparent reason are also common. To some it is mild and to others it can be very severe to the point of suicide. It is not, therefore, a condition to be ignored and light therapy definitely helps in most cases.
OK, perhaps they do enjoy Christmas with their families, but the depression is not helped by the weight that they can put on through the excess of sugars and starches that they consume through no fault of their own. Not for them New Year resolutions to keep off the sugars and starches. The credit card bills at the end of January do not help either.
So how can light therapy help SAD disease, as people call it, though it is actually a syndrome and not a disease? It can’t be ‘caught’ or passed from one person to another and it occurs in varying degrees. It is sometimes referred to as SAD disorder and Winter Blues, but what you call it is irrelevant. Professional psychologists agree on the use of light therapy as a treatment for SAD, and lamps are available that provide the full effect of natural sunlight.
It is very important to understand that this is a very real condition, with potentially very serious consequences if not treated properly. Many sufferers feel isolated due to them feeling not fully understood by most people. It is not something they can just ‘snap out of’ or be resolved by them ‘pulling themselves together’. It must be recognized by sufferers and their families that light treatment as a therapy for SAD can help their symptoms and, in the most severe cases, save lives. Not only life itself, by the treatment of potential suicides, but also the quality of life of the millions of less serious cases.
Some sufferers are lucky enough to work in an environment where their exposure to sunlight can be maximized, but others do not. Office workers with desks beside a window can adjust their seating as to achieve this, but those working in windowless environment, which is the case in most manufacturing units, are unable to. Many with the potential to suffer from this disorder escape it through an outdoor life, or holding a job that involves predominantly outdoor work, such as the armed forces and construction industries.
With fewer daylight hours in winter, it is theoretically possible for an individual to have weeks with very little exposure to natural sunlight. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but not everybody works only five day weeks. SAD is not a condition considered by employers in their provision of facilities for the disabled, probably because it is either not though of as a disabling condition, or because of the general ignorance about it.
Melatonin is a hormone found in all humans, and is produced in higher levels by the body in the absence of sunlight. Melatonin is known to have something to do with the sleep-wake regulation, and people tend to get sleepier with higher levels of melatonin. It makes sense, since it is produced at sundown, and its production declines with dawn. So melatonin production may have a lot to do with SAD disease. It is as uncertain as is the knowledge of the effect of melatonin in the body, but it is under investigation. Do not, therefore, as some suggest, use melatonin as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder, since it may in fact aggravate it.
Far better, as the medical profession agree, is to use light therapy. Light therapy as a treatment for SAD is the simplest available, and is also portable. Light therapy can be used at home and in the workplace. It is just a shame for the sufferers that it has not been given the publicity and the research that it should, due it being a seasonal disorder.
Mike Zimmerman and his staff are experts on the use of light therapy to relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Get more information on SAD lights and white noise at www.soundmachinesdirect.com where the theory behind them is explained in more detail.
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