Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, many people find themselves grappling with a familiar foe – the winter blues. While it’s common to experience a dip in mood during the colder months, for some, this change in mood can be more than just a temporary slump. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of major depressive disorder, is a condition characterized by recurrent, seasonal episodes of depression. Fortunately, a ray of hope exists in the form of light therapy, a non-invasive and effective treatment for SAD.

The hallmark symptoms of SAD include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Individuals may also experience changes in appetite, weight gain, and a desire to sleep excessively, known as hypersomnia. The compounding effects of these symptoms can make daily life a considerable challenge for those affected by SAD.


The good news is that effective treatments exist, with light therapy being a frontrunner in managing and alleviating its symptoms. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, involves the use of specially designed light boxes to mimic the effects of natural sunlight. These light boxes emit bright, white light that filters out harmful UV rays.

Light therapy works by stimulating the brain and regulating the production of key neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin. Exposure to this light source in the morning, for about 30 minutes to an hour, helps reset the circadian rhythm and improve mood and sleep patterns. This treatment is non-invasive and typically well-tolerated, making it a popular choice among SAD sufferers.

To make the most of light therapy, it’s crucial to use the light box correctly. Here are some key guidelines:


  1. **Choose the Right Light Box**: Many of the light boxes or SAD lamps available online do not provide enough intensity of light to provide benefit. We recommend the Canadian-made brand Northern Lights (https://northernlighttechnologies.com/en-ca/shop-now/) since they are well-made, provide the needed 10, 000 lux of light and also state the distance from the light source that is optimal. Use our Gift Card code: TMSLIFE for $25-$35 off the asking price.


  1. **Timing is Everything**: Typically, light therapy should be administered for 30 minutes in the morning to help regulate your circadian rhythm.


  1. **Consistency is Key**: For maximum benefit, use the light box daily, ideally at the same time each day. Many individuals find that morning light therapy sessions fit best into their routines. The lightbox may be placed beside your bed, at the breakfast table or at work. Anywhere that you would regularly be sitting or standing during the morning hours.


  1. **Monitor for Side Effects**: Light therapy is generally safe, but some individuals may experience side effects such as eyestrain or headaches. If this occurs, reducing the exposure time or changing the distance from the light source can help.

If you have any questions or would like to try a SAD Lamp at our clinic in Ottawa. Please do not hesitate to e-mail or call our clinic.