Danish sculptor and writer, Sinnet Morch, has suffered from SAD all her life. She describes her own experiences and how she copes. Plus a run down on the lights available.
The pineal gland (an outgrowth from the brain) excretes the hormone melatonin. When we get high summer sun it is dormant. However, when the sun gets low on the horizon it is activated. All vertebrates have this gland and the melatonin is the signal to hibernate or migrate. As we humans have jobs and families to look after we can do neither so are left to get on as best we can.
My own experience
The SAD experience
Apart from the lethargy I have to cope with a problem, which I do not think is mine alone; I suspect it is common. From November to spring I pick up any bug going and activate any ‘live-in’ viruses. My personal opinion, for what’s worth, is not that SAD weakens the immune system, but that the immune system has priorities and exhausts its self-fighting SAD.
• Vitamin D. Supplementing with Vitamin D certainly helps – see Dr Downing's article for more details.
Light boxes/lamps ( ed.)
www.sad.org.uk is a support group for those suffering with SAD with some useful back ground information about the condition.
They also have a list of recommended manufacturers of SAD light boxes and suggest that you only buy from those as there are a number of copycat light boxes on the market that do not deliver the level of light needed. However, they do point out that, effectively, you get what you pay for as the cheaper the light, the fewer, or lower level, the light it will emit; fine if you just want to boost you mood in the darker days, but if you suffer from serious SAD you are going to need a three or four bulb light. To be effective you are looking for lights to produce around 10,000 Lux at 15cm from the user as that is the level at which it is classed as 'therapeutic'.
You can either get the traditional fluorescent lit light boxes or you can use an LED lit box which is smaller and whose bulbs last longer. Its makers also claim that it delivers a more efficient light than traditional fluorescent lamps. Sinnet is currently trying these out and we will report in a f ew weeks.
VAT – because a light box is a therapeutic device you can usually get it ex-Vat – you just need to fill in and sign a form saying that you suffer from SAD.
Britebox Energise offers a four bulb light box (producing the required 10,000 Lux of light) which opens up like a book and sits on your desk - but also folds away so that it is easy to carry around with you. It costs £189 including VAT and delivery. They offer a 60 day money back guarantee.
Full Spectrum Solutions offer a selection of dimmable 70watt table and floor lamps plus a very agricultural looking box running for $169 to $299 – but you will need to add the cost of delivery from the US.
Innosol offer a wide range of options from a flat round lamp which can be used on a table or mounted on a wall ( £115), to the more traditional flat boxes (£198 – £230) or even a Finnish designed multi-light table lamp for £289 – all from www.bodykind.com. However I cannot find any information about return policies on their site.
The Lite book is a small LED light that claims to be as, if not more, efficient than the traditional fluorescent bulbs, without the 'blue light hazard'/radiation risks of fluorescent tubes. The Litebook Elite costs £149 inc VAT – review to follow in a few weeks. They offer a 60 day money back guarantee.
Lumie offer four lights all at around £120 – 2 boxes and two desk lights. However, even the Arabica that they recommend for serious SAD only has two tubes so would probably not be that effective if you were badly affected.
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