Thursday, January 04, 2007

Leave a Light On

It's that time of the year when the darkness sets in earlier, and the sun is but a short-lived friend.

While some people can shake the winter doldrums, there are those who become depressed or find their depression deepen during the dark months.

This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Researchers have been able to identify several genes which work in concert with the "Suprachaismatic Nucleus", also known as our body clock, in determining our circadian rhythms.

Light Therapy has been endorsed for many years now for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and many of my patients have found it helpful. Light therapy helps suppress the winter withdrawal hormones, and produces active mood hormones. In essence, it resets the sleep/wake cycle.

I use Light Therapy in addition to the medication I take for depression.

I have my little device next to my computer and click it on and let the bright blue lights wash over me as I blog, surf and answer email. Since using the Light Therapy, I've found myself feeling much better than seasons before. The depression that usually deepens for me in the winter is nowhere to be found.

If you experience depression, it is important to have it professionally diagnosed. Once your diagnosis is validated, talk to your professional about treatments. Talk therapy, medication and their combination have shown the greatest treatment success for depression. Adding Light Therapy may bring even greater results.

Technology is so cool.

For an array of Light Therapy devices click this link:

The picture above is the model I use ~ A Go-Lite P1 .

Apollo Health


Anonymous said...

I have one of those SAD lights too. In fact, many people here in Prince Rupert are affected by SAD. We live in one of the rainiest spots in North America. These lights really are effective for many people.
Thanks for bringing this topic to mind.


Anonymous said...

------------> sunning myself in Florida, but still feeling rather blah. Looking forward to the Rosie O'Donnel v. Donald "Duck" Trump wrestling match. 3 to 1 on Rosie.

PalmTreeChick said...

Going to Florida works too!

Anonymous said...

Light Therapy does not really work for me (and I have tried it), but going to the gym certainly does.

I don't know why perspiring in shorts on a treadmill helps depression, but it does. It is, however, hell on my hair. But that is the sacrifice I am willing to make for my slight depression (and it keeps me from having to take medication, which really changed my outlook on life). But again, I don't have serious depression.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I haven't heard of those lights, but they sound fascinating.

Anonymous said...

We just started using light therapy last does help...not enough, but definitely helps. Pdoc thinks it will help more when we don't have things like parent visits happening...she may be right! In addition to having a light at our desk, pdoc suggested tanning...every 7-10 days with lots of sunscreen...that REALLY helps! Something about the light combined with the warmth lifts the mood dramatically.

angela said...

where can i get one of those lights? I would appreciate info. My email is


Tom Bailey said...

You have some great ideas here on your blog. Very helpful ideas.

Wanda's Wings said...

My depression is always increased in the winter months. Where can light thearpy lights be purchased? My meds are being changed again, but I'm not sure it's helping. Will this help with bi-polar depression as well?

Sisiphus said...

I too use a light therapy box. I find that is an absolute must for me and there have been some interesting studies on their use in depression. I just wish that I could take it into the sauna with me....then I could imagine that I was in some other climate or try and believe that I was in Maui.


Dawn said...

the picture you have at the top of this post, is that what the light looks like? everytime i hear someone talking about the light i picture this huge contraption that's on wheels and stuff-lol-i'm so misinformed :)

Anonymous said...

hmmmm... defintely something to think about. Thanks for bringing this to light! (no pun intended!)


Heidi said...

I've been thinking about the light. I'm up at 4:30 to be at the gym for 5. It's so dark out , I feel like it's the evening already. I then leave for work and it barley got lighter..Indoors all day, no windows . then home for 5 and it's dark again.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Hey Puhpaul,
I often wonder how I would do if I lived in the northwest of North America. I'd have a light for sure, I think!

Dearf Godwhacker,
I find the sun so healing, but can't STAY in the sun for long. Too hot. I think Mr. Trump is stoking a fire to help his ratings for the return of The Apprentice this Sunday.

Dear Palmtree,
People living in sunfilled cities often do not suffer with SAD. If one can plan a trip, for sure that helps. But if you can't a light may help.

Dear Leesa,
Exercise is VERY important for good mental health. Many people do not respond to Light Therapy. But for those who do, it really is blessing.

Dear Jean-luc,
Fascinating, I agree.

Dear Fallen,
SO glad you find it helpful. And having the warmth from tanning is soothing. But if you can, just try to get the sunshine on your face for 15-20 a day. That can help too.

Dear Angela,
I emailed you. But here is where I found one on :

Dear Tom,
Why thank you.

Dear Wanda,
You can purchase a light box from I think it is important to do some research on your own, so google Light Therapy as well and read about it. There are some reports that Light Therapy can help with the depression aspects and sleeplessness in Bipolar Disorder.

Dear Sis,
The one I have is portable. It and uses batteries when I travel. I guess you could take it with you in a Sauna, but I'd probably want to call the company to see if the steam or dry heat would effect its inner mechanisms.

Dear Dawn,
You are not misinformed, my friend. There are Light Boxes. Big, huge contraptions. But technology has been refining the manufacturing, and now they can be so tiny. I'll send you a link and I'll put a link on the blog since so many are asking.

Dear Survivor,
You are so punny.

Dear Heidi,
They can be a bit pricey but may be an investment that will have a huge payoff for you. Around 150-200$.


Moof said...

I know a couple who both use those lights ... and I'm honestly not sure that it does much either of them - at least from an observer's point of view.

I think I agree with "PalmTreeChick" ... going to Florida would work! :o)

Anonymous said...

If there were sunshine to be had...I would definitely sit out in it...but I'm at the very bottom edge of the Pacific Northwest:( The rain started in should stop around April...I hope. :P

Jon Mikel said...

I went to Riviera Maya (sun tan, snorkel, windsurf, etc) and it really worked!

healthpsych said...

So many people report finding these lamps useful. I have a friend from Finland who used one regularly. Of course I'm sitting here in high summer, dreaming of winter. Maybe I'm just odd...

PS While I'm here, please don't forget to vote for Deborah as best medical weblog at

Sorry, Deb, hope you don't mind me blowing your trumpet for you!

Anonymous said...

i suspect a genetic connection with SAD as i have noticed some of my friends from Asia (where SAD does not occur) being effect by it when they move to some parts of Europe and north America.
This lead me to believe that Asians to can be genetically predisposed to SAD given the right environmental conditions.

Nancy said...

This gives me something to think about. My husband goes into a slump around mid Dec, I have always thought it was the lack of light but he does not agree. I am going to do some research and let him make a decision, its worth the $ if it will make him feel better.
thanks again for great info

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Moof,
It's important to realize that Light Therapy works for most, not all, so thanks for pointing this out. As with any treatment, there will be variability in success. Happy TGIF!

Dear Fallen,
I would definitely need to have Light Therapy at work and at home if I lived near you. Thouhg I like the rain, and the cozy feeling it gives me, I think my depression would increase, for sure.

Dear Jon,
The sun is a very powerful healing source! I agree.

Dear Healthpsych,
Many do find improvement in symptoms from Light Therapy. And it's not odd that you are dreaming of winter. I understand that is it a rather HOT summer in Australia. I'll be putting a post on the Medblog Awards tomorrow. Thanks for the shout out!

Dear Astro,
I think you are onto something. I met a woman from Columbia yesterday who, since moving to the Northeast in America, has been having significant depression in the winter months. This ties into your theory.

Dear Nancy,
Oh, I hear you on this! My hubby also gets into a rather downtrodden mood in the Winter, but denies trying Light Therapy. I did find him monkeying around with the device the other day, so I guess there IS hope. Maybe both of our husbands will give it a try.



Chris Roberts said...

I actually tend to get a little depressed when it gets dark so early. Living in California, I am an outdoor person and cannot stand being indoors all day. Sometimes the only thing I do is meet new people online. There is a great health related site called where I have learned a lot.

Deb S. said...

I'm definitely going to check out the devices. Good information.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Deaar Chris,
Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

Dear Deb,
I'm a big believer in a wholistic approach to health. Anything that has some research behind it is something I'll always be open to considering. Light Therapy was one of them.


for_the_lonely said...

My aunt has a light therapy like a charm for her!

Thanks for always educating us on such fascinating topics, Dr. Deb!


Vegas said...

That is a cool post - I was writing about my own SAD at almost the same time! Thanks for the tips.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Sarah,
Good thing it worked for her. It doesn't work for some.

Hey Vegas,
Nice seeing you here. I'm going to come over for a visit.