What Is A SAD Light?

SAD lights are special kinds of lamps used in phototherapy to help treat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD light therapy lamp boxes are not your typical household systems, but rather specially designed lighting devices used to treat seasonal depression. They use flourescent and incadescent bulbs, and some newer models are now using
LED technology.

The most common types of these light boxes offer either full spectrum light at 10,000 lux, blue light running at a wave length of 480 nm at 2,500 lux or green light at a 500 wave length and 350 lux.

The full spectrum, 10,000 lux light is the most commonly used in treating SAD. There are many of these devices on the market ranging in price, running anywhere from $60 – $200 on average to the consumer.

SAD lights mimic sunlight, but without the same intensity. When using one of these devices, a patient sits within close range (usually 30 – 60 cm) while exposed to the light without looking directly into it. This comes out to 1 – 2 feet of distance between you and the light box.

If a person who is suffering from seasonal depression does this for 30 – 60 minutes each day for several weeks, the positive results can be significant. Many people who use SAD lamps in this manner experience a noticeable difference in condition after a few days.

The reasoning behind SAD lights is that they produce a chemical change in the brain, much like that of the sun’s light during the warmer parts of the year.

A study that was conducted in 1995 revealed that patients exposed to 500 nm of green (cyan and blue) light therapy at a dosage of 350 lux produced a melatonin suppression that had the same equivalent of 10,000 lux bright light therapy.

Treatment of seasonal depression can be more effective if the use of a SAD light begins in early Autumn. Most patients find that using one in the early morning is the best option. Using phototherapy in the evening can stimulate the mind and make it difficult to achieve sleep.

Unfortunately, the majority of health insurance plans will not cover the costs of a light box, but the good news is that one can typically be bought either over the counter, online or with a prescription from your general practitioner.