It’s not groundbreaking information that we’re all finding ourselves indoors more right now. Add that to the colder, darker days ahead and you may notice yourself feeling a little more moody or blue than usual.
“Most people don’t think much about light on a day-to-day basis, but human physiology and mood adapts to the light we receive,” said Hanne Hoffmann, an assistant professor of animal science at Michigan State University with a background in neurobiology.
“In the summer people get a lot of natural light and this promotes changes in the body, allowing an increased sense of well-being, more energy and an overall good mood,” she said. “In the fall, when most people spend less time outside combined with shorter days, many do not get enough natural light to maintain those ‘feeling happy’ brain signals and may experience seasonal affective disorder.”
Enter: SAD lamps, clinically referred to as light therapy boxes. The tool mimics outdoor light and can help mitigate some of the mental health problems that come with the wintertime.
“Common signs of SAD include lack of energy, reduced motivation, trouble concentrating, feeling down as well as being grumpy, moody or anxious,” Hoffmann said. “You might eat more and gain weight. Your sleep quality is often reduced, and you might sleep more, but still feel tired when you get up.”
If you are diagnosed with SAD or are experiencing symptoms, data shows light therapy will help 80% of those who use it correctly.
But do a quick search on Google or Amazon for a SAD lamp and you’ll find a swinging scale of prices, ranging from $30 to over $100. So what’s the difference? Do you need to shell out a bunch of cash on the product in order for it to work?
Here, experts explain what makes SAD lamps so effective and what to look for before you buy one.
How SAD lamps work to improve your mental health
“Light therapy may normalize individuals’ circadian rhythms by stimulating retinal cells, which consequently affect the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain involved in the regulation of many important bodily functions,” said Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director of Community Psychiatry in California.