Do you suffer from the winter blues? It’s the condition called seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D. — and it’s not unusual in our climate. Bright-light therapy is the treatment of choice, with response rates comparable with those of antidepressants. Yet many experts think light therapy is underused, especially when you consider its affordability and relative lack of side effects.
Patients generally sit in front of the light box, which can be as small as 9 by 11 inches and 5 inches deep, with the bright light emanating from the square surface, in the morning. Doctors explain that with the natural dawn being later in winter, the body rhythms drift late, and they say if you can fix the drift, you can fix the depression.
No one knows exactly how it works, but most experts seem to agree that the body has a master biological clock that responds to or is “set” by natural light fluctuations. Some say light therapy may even help with major non-seasonal depression, and with sleep disorders. And because it has few side effects, researchers are studying whether light therapy can help with depression during pregnancy and be used to treat elderly people with dementia.