Are SAD Lamps Safe?

Woman with head on table

A lot of people have been recommending SAD lamps in order to alleviate seasonal affective disorder. But are they actually safe? Well, they are designed to be.

However, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. But read on to find out more about SAD lamps and their safety.


What is SAD?


The acronym is actually quite appropriate because when you have SAD, you are actually sad. It is a kind of depression that is related to the changing seasons.

It mostly falls in autumn and winter. During these colder times, people are more sluggish and gloomy.

Let’s elaborate

In most cases, SAD usually starts in the fall when the season gets colder. It will continue until the winter months.

It is not exclusive during the cold months, though. Some people also experience SAD in the spring or summer, but there are fewer cases of this during hotter months.

First of all

During colder months, days are usually shorter and nights are longer. As such, there are fewer hours where you are active.

More often, you just want to curl up and sleep. You are less active and more sluggish.

Don’t brush it off!

You might just think that it’s the winter blues. That’s a different matter!

Let me explain

The winter blues are actually more common. They are also less serious.

Winter blues are basically the shift in your mood. You become more gloomy in the winter but not necessarily depressed.

In other words, you still have the ability to enjoy life. In fact, for many, the winter blues is a reason to look for enjoyment!

How?

Many people cure winter blues with whiskey or any other alcoholic drink that gets them warm. If you don’t drink alcoholic drinks, then maybe hot cocoa or coffee is more to your liking.

However

If you feel that winter blues are persisting, then maybe you are experiencing SAD. It is a debilitating disease and it’s something people should take seriously.

Thoughtful young woman wearing muffler at lakeside in park

Symptoms of SAD


How do you know if you have SAD? Here are some of the telltale signs:

  • Feeling down for most part of the day, every day.
  • Not enjoying activities you used to love.
  • Sluggish.
  • You want to sleep all the time OR you have a hard time sleeping.
  • Losing weight.
  • Feeling agitated.
  • Not able to concentrate.
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless or both.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Then there are also symptoms usually tied to just autumn and winter SAD:

  • Sleeping almost all the time.
  • Always wanting to eat fatty food items.
  • Gaining weight.
  • Always feeling tired.

Symptoms of spring and summer SAD:

  • Insomnia.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss. 
  • Anxiety.

If you are feeling these symptoms for several days already, try to get yourself out of the funk. If you can’t, then you have to see a doctor.


Causes of SAD


In the U.S., SAD reportedly affects 5% of the population every year. Various studies also indicate that women are more prone to have SAD than men.

Young adults, too, are more prone to experience SAD.

Factors that cause SAD:

  • Circadian rhythm – This is basically your 24-hour body clock that determines your sleep-and-wake cycle. The reduced sunlight during winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock leading to the feeling of sadness or depression. 
  • Serotonin levels – Reduced sunlight may also cause a drop in serotonin, which is known as the body’s happy chemical. 
  • Melatonin levels – The change in season may also mess up the balance of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates a person’s sleep-wake pattern.

Risk factors

As mentioned, more women experience SAD and it could affect young adults as well. The following may also increase a person’s likelihood in experiencing SAD:

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  • Family history
  • History of depression and bipolar disorder
  • Living far from the equator
SAD Lamp

Light Therapy


When you feel like you are suffering from SAD, go see a doctor. It doesn’t hurt to talk to someone about it.

A doctor might recommend that you regularly have psychological counselling. In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed.

Another solution is…

Light therapy!

What is it?

It is one way to treat SAD. You basically use a light therapy box in a bid to keep the heaviness inside you a little bit lighter.

Basically, you just do regular work near a SAD lamp. You can put the lamp on your desk and you can do your thing on the desk illuminated by the therapeutic light.

How does it work?

The SAD lamp resembles natural light emitted by the sun. An effective SAD lamp is believed to have a positive impact on the chemicals in your brain that are linked to mood and sleep.

As a result, you feel lighter and maybe your mood and sleep pattern will go back to normal.

If not

Then you will need more than light therapy.


How to Ensure a SAD Lamp is Safe


This is why it is important to visit a doctor or any other healthcare provider. They can help you choose the right SAD lamp for your light therapy.

You can also raise your concerns about light therapy as well as questions regarding SAD lamps.

It’s simple

You just stay some time near the SAD lamp. But you need to know how long you can be there to be effective.

It’s like taking medicine. You need the right dosage for it to be effective.

Here’s another concern

If you are using the SAD lamp because you are experiencing SAD while also being diagnosed with having bipolar disorder, then there is appropriate exposure time to the therapeutic light.

If you have bipolar disorder, too much exposure to SAD lamps may cause you to have manic behavior.

Also

If you have eye problems, you need to check with the doctor if a SAD lamp is safe for you to use.

The truth is

SAD lamps are neither food nor drugs, hence, these are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Although, generally, they are created to be safe.

However

You still have to be careful that there are manufacturers out there who are just looking for a quick buck. In case your doctor doesn’t recommend a specific SAD lamp, research about reputable brands and manufacturers.

Don’t be hasty when you buy a SAD lamp. Read about SAD lamps and check out recommendations from experts.

SAD light on table

What You Need to Know


Because the SAD lamp is meant to mimic sunlight, it should have the following criteria:

  • 10,000 lux of light
  • Little to no UV light

Recommended use:

  • Use the SAD lamp when you wake up in the morning–within the first hour. 
  • Use it for at least 20 minutes and not more than 30. You can read the paper or have your morning coffee with it.
  • The lamp should be around 16 to 25 inches away from your face.
  • Don’t look at the light directly.

You must know

There are some light boxes that are meant to treat skin conditions. Make sure that you get the right product for your light therapy–one that is labeled SAD lamp.

In addition

Although you are using the SAD lamp to have sort-of natural daylight indoors, it is important you actually buy one that is UV-free. UV can damage your skin and your eyes.

Also, look for a glare-free light.

Remember

Just because you are buying a product with therapeutic use, that doesn’t mean that you can just take style for granted.

SAD lamps come in various designs. Look for one that will at least showcase your personality.

Better yet

Buy a SAD lamp that will fit in with your home style–or any space you intend to bring your lamp with you.

Be mindful of the size, too. You might transfer your SAD lamp from one place to another so it should be something that is easy to lug around.

SAD lamp

Summary


To answer the question, SAD lamps are generally safe. However, it is still best if you consult with your doctor about the best lamp to choose.

But

If your doctor doesn’t want to endorse a specific brand, at least find out the vital facts that you need to look for. Also, ask the doctor about recommended exposure to SAD lamps.

Don’t ignore the symptoms of SAD. It is a thing and if you have it, you should do something to alleviate it.


You Might Also Like…


Do you want to know more about SAD lamps? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and their answers of course!

There are other ways to treat SAD. Having a healthy lifestyle, for one, is essential to combat SAD and other forms of depression. Learn more about treatments of seasonal depression.

Check out our light box reviews to know which SAD lamps are the best.

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