Driving west the other night around 5:30 and it was already getting dark. It’s that time of year again. Falling back may make it lighter earlier in the day but by the time I get off work and actually have time to get out and exercise, it’s already getting dark. The extra hour of sleep we get when we turn the clocks back comes with a price.
The late Fall and early Winter are difficult times to get a lot of sunlight. If you have trouble with the blues, you probably have problems sleeping which in turn makes you tired during the day, which makes your depression deepen . . . which disturbs your sleep even more . . . and on and on.
Such is the nature of depression. The very symptoms of the black dog cause the disease to deepen. It can be a seemingly endless downward spiral. You’re tired but you can’t get to sleep or you wake up early. When you do manage to nod off it’s not very restful.
Lack of sleep interferes with everything in your life. Your thinking becomes foggy, short term memory isn’t what it used to be, emotions are frayed and your stress level goes up. All of this piles on to your already weakened state. What can you do?
Light therapy is one of the cornerstones of the TLC program. 30 minutes a day in front of a therapeutic light is enough to help reset your internal clock, your circadian rhythm, so that your body & mind are more likely to stay in balance.
To combat the darkness we need to get outside more or buy a light box. It’s one of the easiest parts of the TLC program to do and it truly does help.
Some things to remember about light (box) therapy:
Light isn’t just for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) it’s helpful for non-seasonal depression too.
The brightness of the lightbox and the length of exposure (the time you sit in front of it each day) is your key to successful light therapy. 30 minutes per day, all at once for 5 days a week.
Make sure the light you use has an ultraviolet filter built in as without it there’s an increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts (just like with direct sunlight).
Make sure you are close enough to the light box to get 10,000 lux (intensity of light at a certain distance from the lightsource) of light. 18 to 24 inches is the correct distance for most lamps but make sure you read the instructions that come with your light box.
You don’t have to look directly into the light but you want to make sure that you can see it clearly.
Keep a schedule. Use your lightbox at the same time everyday preferably first thing in the morning. Avoid using it late in the day as it can interfere with your sleep.
Studies have shown light therapy may be as effective as medication in treating some forms of depression - so get going!
Some links to reputable dealers (no, I’m not associated with & receive no compensation from them).