Winter Blues Linked To Sunlight Deprivation

Feeling blue and depressed during the dark, cold winter months? According to a study published in the Brittish medical journal, The Lancet (December 7,2002;360:1840-1842), this dip in mood may be caused by lowered levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin levels are low in people with depression and also in healthy people during the winter (SAD).

In the study, blood samples were taken from blood vessels leading to the brain in 101 healthy men at several different times over a one year period. Results indicated that the activity of serotonin-containing neurons was lowest during the fall and winter and highest in the spring and summer, when sunlight is most plentiful.

In the study, serotonin neuron activity was higher on brighter days than darker days, even within the same season. This suggests that levels of serotonin in the brain were directly related to how much sunlight was available on the day the sample was taken. Though this study involved men, researchers say that women likely experience a drop in serotonin levels during the winter as well, though the actual amount may differ according to gender. Additionally, researchers note that results point to a biological reason for SAD, which may help to displace some of the skepticism regarding this, and other, mental illnesses.

In treating sufferers of SAD, patients are exposed to bright light, a technique known as phototherapy. Since serotonin levels rise in the brain on bright days with a lot of sunlight, bright light may boost mood by activating neurons in the brain that contain serotonin, leading to increased levels of the chemical in the brain, according to the researchers.

 
SAD Lightbox  From Tan Plus

It is estimated that 10 million people in the United States alone experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), while another 25 million suffer from a milder version sometimes referred to as winter depression. Light therapy, also called bright light therapy or phototherapy, has been used to treat SAD since the early 1980s. Many mental health professionals now consider light therapy to be standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder.  Since 1995, under the Essentials Of Life division, Tan Plus has sold the Aurora™ light boxes and other "natural" lighting products in partnership with Lumiram, the largest manufacturer of full spectrum lighting for home, office, and industry.
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Commonly referred to as a "light box", the Aurora is specifically engineered for those who have shown to be adversely affected by the lack of natural sunlight during the dark and depressing fall and winter months. The condition is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter depression. The light box intensity of 10,000 lux is much brighter than normal indoor light which is usually 300-500 lux, but not as bright as summer sunlight which can be as bright as 100,000 lux. Light therapy units do not emit UV rays and therefore do not produce a tan or vitamin D.

Light Therapy Has Potential Benefits For People With Sad And May Be Helpful If You:

• Don't want to take medications such as antidepressants
• Can't tolerate the side effects of antidepressants
• Tried antidepressants but they haven't been effective
• Want an alternative to psychotherapy
• Are pregnant and concerned about the effects of antidepressants on your developing fetus
• Lack insurance coverage for mental health services

Light therapy may be helpful in treating conditions other than SAD. However, it shouldn't be a substitute for standard treatment. And keep in mind that little research has been done using light therapy for other disorders. These other disorders may include:
• Depression other than seasonal affective disorder
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
• Postpartum depression
• Some forms of insomnia

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Tanning & Natural Health News is a publication of Tan Plus /Essentials Of Life, Barclay Square, 350 Route 108, Somersworth, NH. This publication is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be presented as medical advice. Product statements made have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Copyright © 2004-2013 • Ray Allard • All Rights Reserved

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