What is a SAD lamp and do they work as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The winter months can often make many people feel more glum than usual and there’s actually a scientific reason for this.

Millions of people across the UK struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is only present during certain seasons.

For most people, SAD symptoms start to develop during late autumn and become most severe in the winter, making the cold months tough to get through.

But there’s one simple thing that could help to battle the winter blues, a SAD lamp.

Here’s everything you need to know about what a SAD lamp is and whether they really work.

What is a SAD lamp?

A SAD lamp is a type of light box that emits a very bright form of light.

The lamps come in a variety of designs, including desk-lamps and ones that can be mounted to your walls.

SAD lamps are commonly used as a form of light therapy in the treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder and are believed to be able to improve the mood of people who suffer from winter depression.

The light therapy involves sitting in front of the lamp, usually for around 30 minutes in the morning, and the intense light is supposed to simulate the sunlight that is often missing during the darker months.

Do SAD lamps work for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the NHS, evidence regarding the effectiveness of light therapy is mixed but some studies have concluded that it’s effective in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, particularly when used in the morning.

BWRT psychotherapist Lisa Jury, told the Mirror that while light therapy can work, it’s important to ensure you’re using the right type of SAD lamp.

She said: “Light therapy is a proven treatment for SAD but sitting and staring at your kitchen halogens won’t do the job!

“You need to use a proper lightbox that will provide you with the exact type & brightness of light that will help.”

Explaining why SAD occurs, Lisa said: “Historically SAD has been disregarded as a genuine form of depression, and its sufferers written off as being merely moody or grumpy.

“Recent study and research, however, has concluded that it is, in fact, a real form of depression that occurs in direct relation to a person’s hormonal state, exposure to natural light and temperature which can both influence the body’s production of melatonin.”

Using SAD lamps as a form of light therapy encourages your brain to reduce the production of melatonin, which makes you sleepy, and increases production of serotonin, the hormone that affects your mood.

Lisa also said that while light therapy and other forms of treatment can be used to combat the symptoms of SAD, you should get a formal diagnosis first.

She explained: “If you feel that you are feeling down during the winter months, then the first step should be to visit your doctor.

“The symptoms of SAD are very similar to other types of depression, so it’s important to rule those out first and to get a formal diagnosis.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also recommends that SAD be treated like other types of depression, so while light therapy has proven beneficial to some people, you may also benefit from other types of treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy or antidepressants.