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Seasonal Light Therapy FAQ

Below you will find some frequently asked questions about Seasonal Light Therapy. If you cannot find the answer to your question please don't hesitate to contact us.

What is the difference between SAD & the Winter Blues?

The "winter blues" is a pet term for sub-syndromal SAD. The "winter blues" is not as severe as Seasonal Affective Disorder; however individuals may suffer similar symptoms. Individuals with SAD will suffer most symptoms severely, such as depression and anxiety - having a big impact on their daily life. Individuals may not be able to function without treatment. Those with the winter blues are likely to see the milder symptoms, and these may have an effect on their daily life, such as food cravings and energy slumps. Both forms of SAD are nonetheless disruptive to normal life and only occur during the winter months.

See our SAD Lamp comparison chart here

Is SAD the same as depression?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, however, as its name suggests, it only occurs seasonally. It is not the same as clinical depression and treatment will also be different. Light therapy offers sufferers of SAD an option of treatment that is natural and without the use of prescriptions drugs. Light therapy should be combined with other activities such as increasing exercise, getting outside more, taking a sunny holiday and eating fewer carbohydrates (especially fast releasing carbohydrates) etc.

Can I still use light therapy if I don't have SAD?

Yes. Light therapy has a positive effect on mood and helps our bodies behave naturally. Light therapy can help with relaxation, balancing the circadian rhythm and managing sleep & eating patterns, amongst other things. Many individuals use a sunrise alarm clock to simply help them get up in the morning, a light mask to help them relax after a busy day at the office or a skin lamp for skin concerns such as fine lines or rosacea.

Is a dawn simulator just for SAD sufferers?

No. Whilst a dawn simulator can help those suffering with SAD and circadian rhythm imbalances (amongst other things), a dawn simulator can be used by anyone - from children to adults. Dawn simulators, or sunrise alarm clocks, make getting out of bed in the morning and falling asleep at night easier, whilst ensuring you don’t spend the day in a bad mood. They can ensure your circadian rhythm stays regulated, meaning balanced energy levels, healthy eating patterns and better moods.

See our Sunrise Alarm Clock comparison chart here

What light therapy is best for SAD?

SAD Light Boxes, or SAD Lamps, that are specifically designed for Seasonal Affective Disorder are best. This will usually mean that the product emits approximately 10,000 lux of light. However you must read the manufacturer's guide to see what distance you need to be from the light. It may also be recommended to use a dawn simulator as well, to ensure you start your day off in a good mood, and to help synchronise your circadian rhythm.

See our SAD Lamp comparison chart here

What light therapy is best for the "winter blues"?

As the "winter blues" is a milder form of SAD, individuals may benefit from using a sunrise alarm clock (or dawn simulator) or a SAD light box. Some manufacturers make combined SAD & Sunrise alarm clock lights which can be a cost effective way of managing your symptoms.

See our SAD Lamp comparison chart here

See our Sunrise Alarm Clock comparison chart here

What light therapy is best to help me get up in the morning or for shift workers?

Dawn simulators (sometimes known as bodyclocks or sunrise alarm clocks) are ideal for anyone who needs an extra hand to get up in the morning, or if you are a shift worker who has to get up at different times of the day or night. Not only should you wake up naturally (and not to the sudden sound of a shrill alarm) and with more energy, but you should also find this has a positive knock-on effect with your mood.

See our Sunrise Alarm Clock comparison chart here

What is my circadian rhythm?

Your circadian rhythm is your internal bodyclock which is regulated by light and dark in a cycle of approximately 24 hours. When the nights get longer, and there are less daylight hours available, your body may not produce cortisol or melatonin at the right times (which makes us wake and sleep), causing energy slumps, low mood and irregular eating patterns or cravings. This may mean your circadian rhythm is imbalanced.

If your body is woken with a "shock" at the sound of a shrill alarm in the morning and when it is still dark outside, your body may not be ready to wake up, causing low mood from the moment you wake up. It is important to keep your circadian rhythm in synch to prevent these possible issues arising.

Click here to see why light is important

How do I know if my circadian rhythm is out of balance?

You may suffer all or some of the following:

  • You struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
  • You struggle to get to sleep.
  • You have energy slumps during the day.
  • You're constantly tired, and / or irritable.
  • You find you keep over-eating or crave carbohydrate-rich food.

These symptoms will usually occur during the winter months, if you work shifts or if you have been on a long plane journey and could be suffering from jet-lag.

What is full-spectrum lighting?

A Full Spectrum Light is an artificial light which closely replicates the intensity and range of colours found in natural daylight. These types of bulbs are significantly more efficient than incandescent bulbs. And they can also help prevent eyestrain and headaches (for example if they are used in the office environment) due to the colours being more like daylight than those towards the yellow end of the spectrum.

What is lux?

Lux is a measurement of light illuminance and sometimes referred to as a "light level". It is the measurement of the intensity of light that hits a surface as apparent to the human eye. 10,000 to 25,000 lux is typical of a bright day and direct sunlight may be as high as 130,000 lux - whilst 1,000 lux would be an example of an overcast day.

How many lux do I need to treat SAD?

For the treatment of SAD, 10,000 lux is generally recommended; however, there are SAD light boxes which are lower. It is important to check the lux light output as some more modern SAD lamps may be lower, but just as effective as a traditional 10,000 lux SAD lamp. For SAD, using a light box at the right lux, at the right distance and at the right amount of time will help manage your symptoms daily. It is important to choose the SAD light that is most suitable to your lifestyle.

Can I use a sunrise alarm clock for my child?

Yes. There is no reason why you cannot use a sunrise alarm clock in your child's bedroom. From babies, to toddlers and from adolescents to adults, a sunrise alarm clock can be used by anyone.

Can I overdose on light therapy?

You cannot "overdose" on light therapy; however it is very important that you follow the manufacturer's guidelines as to quantity / length of use to avoid any potential side effects and to ensure you reap the benefits.

How quickly will I notice results?

Many customers report that they notice a difference within the 1 to 2 weeks of usage of either SAD lamps or sunrise alarm clocks. If you are using a combination of both, a sunrise alarm clock and a SAD lamp, you may see quicker results. However, it depends on the reason behind why you are using the light in the first place. For example, if you are using a sunrise alarm clock alone to help with the dark mornings, you may notice a difference after the first day. If you are using a SAD lamp for moderate to severe SAD, then it may take a longer for your body to adjust, improve your mood and for your circadian rhythm to synchronise.

Will light therapy hurt?

None of our light therapy products will hurt. You should always follow the manufacturer's guidelines as to treatment time to ensure you get the best results.

Will I get a suntan?

No, you will not get a suntan using any of our light therapy products.

Can I use light therapy whilst pregnant?

It is perfectly safe to use all our light therapy products whilst pregnant and there is no evidence to suggest these products will cause harm to an unborn child. It is recommended that pregnant women speak to their GP or Health Professional if they intend on using light therapy whilst pregnant. Care must also be taken if children are around and they should not be left alone with electrical equipment.

Can I wear glasses or contact lenses whilst using my SAD light / sunrise alarm clock?

There is no reason why you cannot wear your glasses or contact lenses during light therapy treatment using a SAD lamp or a Sunrise alarm clock. For SAD treatments, it is not recommended you wear sunglasses or tinted lenses. This could reduce the effectiveness of the treatment, as the light needs to get behind the eyes for optimal results.

Are there any contraindications?

Always seek advice from a doctor if you are taking St John's Wort, Antidepressants or any prescribed medication before commencing light therapy of any sort.