Is a lack of our happy hormone serotonin to blame?
The human body is dependent on sunlight. Beside stimulating vitamin D3 production, natural light affects the body in many significant ways. Like food, water, and oxygen, sunlight is another essential nutrient that is necessary for all life-sustaining metabolic processes.
Many experts believe that poor light poses a serious threat to our health. It is defined as any kind of light that does not contain the full-spectrum of wavelengths found in sunlight. Most artificial lighting, both incandescent and fluorescent, is not full spectrum.
Studies show that deficient lighting interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients and contributions to problems such as:
- mood swings,
- sleep disorders,
- immune suppression, and
In terms of SAD, lack of exposure to the full-spectrum of wavelengths found in natural light seems to be the most logical explanation. The connection lies with our hormones and disrupted circadian rhythms.
The key hormonal changes seem to be a reduced secret of melatonin during the night followed by a low secretion of serotonin during the day. Serotonin is your feel good hormone and a low level results in:
- anxiety, and
So, what can you do to increase your serotonin levels?
After waking in the morning make sure you get out of the darkness and into bright light. Open the drapes or blinds and soak in the sunlight. The problem is we often experience little or no sunshine, sometimes day-after-day during the long winter months.
This is when you need to turn to full-spectrum indoor light therapy . Throughout history, light has been highly valued for its healing properties, and today light therapy is an important emerging discipline.
Full-spectrum indoor lighting has been designed to replicate all of the wavelengths found in sunlight and is very therapeutic for those with:
- depression, and / or
- for those who work long hours at their desks.
The effect is due to the reestablishment of the proper 24-hour rhythmic release of melatonin in the evening and serotonin in the morning.
Light therapy often uses using light boxes, which are specifically designed devices consisting of a number of full-spectrum, fluorescent lights that emulate early-morning natural sunlight. Light boxes are available in various sizes and intensities for use at home and in the office. They usually come in values of 2,500 lux and 10,000 lux, where lux is a unit of measure for illumination from a light source.
This bright light treatment for SAD involves sitting near a light box, while reading a book or newspaper, for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to a maximum of 45 minutes every morning.
If your symptoms persist or worsen later in the day, do two sessions a day. For instance, do one session at 8:00 AM and a second session at 1:00 PM. Total exposure time should be limited to 90 minutes.
The best results are seen in people who stick to a consistent schedule beginning in the fall and continuing until the spring. You need to keep up the treatments through the winter months.
When sunshine is scarce, try using a full-spectrum light box to keep your happy hormone at normal levels, especially during the winter months.