Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy is one of the most common treatments of the disorder (also known as SAD). This is probably because SAD typically happens in the colder winter months when the daylight hours are shorter. The light therapy is an attempt to replace those hours by giving the brain more light than it is getting from the reduced sunlight.
There are a couple of versions of Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy. One involves sitting in front of a very bright light for a prescribed amount of time; the other involves having a light in the sleeping area that mimics the sunrise.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Light Box Therapy
Light therapy is believed to manage the release of melatonin in the brain. Improper melatonin secretion is believed to be one of the culprits of SAD. Treatments usually involve extremely bright full spectrum lights. These lights mimic sunlight, though they are not nearly as intense. The colors that are normally used are white, blue, or green. Each color seems to have its own success rate.
For light treatment, the patient sits near the box, about one to two feet away, for a period of thirty minutes up to an hour; less if they are using an LED light. The patient is not to stare at the light, but just be near it. This can be done while watching television, reading, working on the computer, etc.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Dawn Simulation Therapy
It has been proven that over 80 percent of SAD patients have more success with Dawn Simulation treatments than with bright light therapy.
Dawn Simulation was originally called mechanical sunrise because it mimics the sunrise. A timed light is placed in the sleeping area that is preset to come on thirty minutes to two hours before it is time for the patient to wake up. The light is very dim at first; then it gets increasingly brighter during the preset amount of time.
It is believed that this treatment helps to adjust the patient’s circadian rhythm; or biological clock. This is the 24 hour cycle in which all life functions naturally; daytime and nighttime cycles. SAD can affect this, making a patient’s life miserable; but Dawn Simulation is believed to restore the normal cycle.
Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy is not the only treatment available for SAD. Other treatments include antidepressant medications, exercise, sunshine, negative air ionization (which supposedly restores energy), and various forms of counseling.