Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression caused by the change in seasons. As the weather gets colder, it can be harder for seniors to get out and enjoy the fresh air. This can cause them to become more isolated from others, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and sadness. Seniors may also be more sensitive to these changes because they are may have other medical conditions that can make them more vulnerable to depression.
It’s not just seniors who can experience SAD; it affects people of all ages. The majority of people with SAD are women, but it’s also seen more often in those who live in northern climates, have less exposure to natural light, and have a family history of depression.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months or at other times when there’s less sunlight. It’s also known as “winter blues.” People with SAD describe feeling depressed, sad, hopeless, or irritable for most days for at least two weeks each year.
Symptoms Of SAD
People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) describe feeling their symptoms for most days for at least two weeks each year. Their symptoms are similar to those of other types of depression .
The symptoms of SAD include:
- Increased sleepiness
- Decreased energy levels
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain or weight loss
SAD symptoms may differ from person to person. For some, SAD manifests itself only during winter months; others experience it constantly throughout the year.
However, unlike other types of depression that can be more permanent or long lasting, seasonal affective disorder can generally come and go, and can be treated effectively with light therapy.
What Can Help SAD?
For seniors, SAD can be particularly dangerous because it interferes with sleep patterns, which can lead to other health problems later in life. This makes it especially important for seniors to seek treatment for their SAD symptoms now before they become long-term problems.
In recent years, studies have shown that light therapy can be incredibly effective at treating SAD symptoms in seniors. Light therapy uses bright lights to help you adjust your circadian rhythm and feel better overall.
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy, or phototherapy, is a treatment for depression that involves exposing the skin to bright light. It’s not a new technique by any means—it’s been used since the 1920s. But it’s only recently that people have begun to consider using it as a treatment for seniors with depression.
Light therapy can be done at home or in a clinic. You sit in front of a bright light box for about 30 minutes each morning or evening during the winter months to help make you feel better by increasing your exposure to light.
A light therapy box is used to emit different wavelengths of light for a prescribed time each day. A good location for light therapy or placing a light box would be somewhere you sit everyday, example your desk or reading nook.
How Does Light Therapy Work To Treat Depression?
Light therapy can be effective as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Light therapy works by stimulating the brain to release serotonin and other mood-boosting chemicals, which help elevate your mood and make you feel more positive.
The SAD light box is not any ordinary desk lamp. It works by mimicking natural sunlight that enters through the window. When you sit in front of the box, you’ll be exposed to 10,000 lux of blue-enriched white bright light that’s similar in wavelength and intensity to natural sunlight. You’ll sit there for 30 minutes every day—or more if needed—and this will help regulate your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock).
These wavelengths of the bright light help regulate hormones in the body and boosts serotonin levels. The light also stimulates the retina to release dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure to help you feel more energetic, happier and less stressed. The intensity has been found to help with SAD and depression symptoms.
Should Seniors Use Light Therapy?
Help your older loved one get through the dark months by learning more about light therapy and how it can help treat seasonal affective disorder.
While many seniors have found light therapy effective in alleviating depression and anxiety, much research still needs to be done about its effects on older adults.
Some researchers believe that this type of therapy should be the first treatment for severe depression, with more traditional antidepressants and other treatments reserved for milder cases.
Is Light Therapy Safe? Side Effects Of Light Therapy For SAD
Light therapy does not have any serious side effects but may cause mild symptoms, especially if you use it too close to bed time. The side effects of light therapy for seniors with depression are:
- Dry, irritated eyes
- Strained eyes
- Joint Pain
Where To Buy SAD Lights?
There are many types of portable SAD lights available on Well.ca; however, choosing one can be difficult because there aren’t any regulations governing which products should be considered “light boxes.”
Top SAD Lights To Buy
- Verilux Happy Light Lumi on Well.ca
- Northern Lights The BOXelite Desk Lamp Well.ca
- Northern Lights The TRAVelite Well.ca
Light Therapy For SAD
Seasonal affective disorder is a serious condition, and it can have serious consequences for older adults. But there are treatments available that can help you or your loved one cope with symptoms of SAD and other depression. Light therapy is an effective way to treat seasonal affective disorder because it mimics natural sunlight, stimulating the brain’s ability to produce serotonin and melatonin hormones that regulate moods. If you or your loved one is suffering from seasonal depression, talk to your doctor about light therapy today!