8

votes

Bright light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder - on a budget

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created November 13, 2011 at 3:25 PM

The winter is approaching fast here at the higher northern latitudes, and I'm noticing my mood going down quickly. I already take 5000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, and it's not helping nearly enough with my SAD (the disorder, not the diet) symptoms. So I decided that maybe I should try some bright light therapy. Not close to bedtime, of course - I still want to sleep too...

They do sell "bright light lamps" where I live (Finland) but they're just way too expensive for me right now, close to 200 euros. I was thinking about getting a sunlight lamp of some kind from a pet store - the kind they use for reptiles. Do you have any experience with a similar DIY solution for bright light therapy? I have a total maximum of about 100 euros to spend on this. Do sun lamps even help at all with the winter blues? Any tips are greatly appreciated!

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 16, 2011
at 02:00 PM

Re: Virtually impossible to OD? Perhaps by some arbitrary measure of toxicity. But for me, when I jumped on the VitD bandwagon I developed some disturbing dizzy feelings when lying down and rolling over. There are apparently other things light does aside from VitD.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 16, 2011
at 12:56 PM

Karoliina, better to flag than to downvote.

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 16, 2011
at 10:51 AM

Downvoted, because this is clearly an attempt to promote the company linked on this user's profile. And the products of this company are definitely not for someone on a tight budget...

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on November 15, 2011
at 07:59 PM

I don't use it for that, so I don't know. I use it for insomnia/jetlag, seems to have worked ok for that (although could be placebo effect).

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on November 15, 2011
at 05:48 PM

Taking vitamin D last winter did nothing to help me.... actually made me gain fat as far as i could tell at the time but i havent taken it since....

Daac5f2510a6c0466f22dac57e40d070

(90)

on November 15, 2011
at 04:52 PM

"is supposed to help with SAD" - What's your experience with goLITE? Does it seem to work?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 15, 2011
at 08:43 AM

Haven't indoor tanned for a few years because it is hard to get away with a little kiddo, but 1-2 times per week really helped me fend off the winter blues in pre mama days.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 15, 2011
at 08:42 AM

Haven't done indoor tanned for a few years because it is hard to get away with a little kiddo, but 1-2 times per week really helped me fend off the winter blues in years past.

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:46 AM

I definitely didn't think of the UV radiation - and the reptile lamps do indeed emit UV. So thank you, not buying one of those then!

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:45 AM

Thanks for the tip! That looks exactly like something I'm looking for, and it's cheap too - but unfortunately they don't ship to Finland. :/ I'll keep looking...

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:32 AM

What is this recommendation of 10,000 IU or even 50,000 IU based on? It's been quite a while since my ancestors left Africa, and I don't think that my more recent ancestors living here in the north got quite that much of vitamin D3. I tried to Google a bit and found some sites that claim it's impossible for the skin to generate D3 at these latitudes in the winter. My ancestors probably ate a lot of fish though. 500 grams of baltic herring only contains about 4000 IU of vitamin D. So it would seem a bit odd for me to need so much more vit D3 than my Finnish ancestors...?

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 13, 2011
at 08:25 PM

@Dextery, light boxes do not work by increasing vitamin D levels--they emit VISIBLE light, not UV light. Light therapy and vitamin D therapy are separate issues, but not mutually exclusive.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on November 13, 2011
at 06:01 PM

I have also the unpleaseant fact to be born in this cold country so i feel your pain. I suffer from regular depression, which i need to use venlaflaxing. But paleo diet makes the drug work better i noticed. Its so hard to be active in winter :( I have had best benefit from excersive but often the energy is so low that i never seem to manage to do anything. Winter is hard :(

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13 Answers

3
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:17 PM

Hi Karoliina,

Answering your last question first, light therapy can be effective in treating the winter blues, as well as other conditions such as depression and sleep disorders. Here's a previous thread which discussed light therapy options.

There are 2 issues here--efficacy and safety:

Light boxes work by emitting full spectrum white light. The intensity of light is measured in "lux" units. In general, the higher the lux measurement, the more effective the therapy. Light boxes for SAD typically are in the 10,000 lux range. If your "lizard lamp" can't generate enough light, then it may not be worth it.

The second question is safety, which mainly has to do with ultraviolet (UV) emissions. Light boxes for SAD are specifically designed to not emit UV radiation, which can damage your skin and eyes. The pet store version may or may not be manufactured to the same standards.

Reference

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:46 AM

I definitely didn't think of the UV radiation - and the reptile lamps do indeed emit UV. So thank you, not buying one of those then!

2
Daac5f2510a6c0466f22dac57e40d070

on November 15, 2011
at 10:21 AM

I also have a similar problem. At least I have the possibility to walk outside while it's still bright out there. Natural light might be quite a good alternative to light boxes, or maybe even better choice: light therapy devices might provide 10000lx while natural daylight might provide tens of thousands lx. But walking outside is sometimes a little bit boring, so it'd be nice to find some cheap and useful device...

Here is one product that could possibly be useful but few people have reviewed it: http://doctorled.com/sad/

Btw as you are from Finland, you might find my essay interesting: http://valtsuhealth.blogspot.com/2011/10/vuorokausirytmi.html

I also made a quick translation of my essay for English people: http://valtsutest.blogspot.com/2011/11/circadian-rhythm.html

EDIT: Two more suggestions

1) Rio Low Energy SAD Light Therapy Lamp http://amzn.to/roKgMw

2) Lifemax Light Pod 107a SAD Portable Simulated Daylight Box http://amzn.to/sXyooy

EDIT2: I ordered Lifemax Light Pod to test whether such a cheap device works or not. It's not a typical bright light. You get much fewer lux to your eyes but it seems to have more blue wavelengths (higher color temperature) so it should compensate a lot. Actually, in one study 750lux of blue-enriched light seemed to be more useful than 10000lux of standard light treatment. (Meesters et al. 2011)

2
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 15, 2011
at 08:52 AM

My super cheap dawn simulator helps keep me on track and more chipper when the days get shorter. It isn't full spectrum, but the bright light seems to get me going. I bought a lamp timer ($10), and plug a 300 watt halogen lamp into it. Set it for about 30 minutes before when you want to wake up and you'll feel more refreshed. We have a tall floor standing light for this that we bought many years ago, I don't know if you could get them anymore, but you should be able to find work lights at a hardware store.

I also try to light my house a brightly as possible during the day too if it is too cold to stay out for long. For me at least, I think it is the lack of light to dark and back that messes me up. And whatever you do, stay away from florescent lighting in the winter, it emits a spectrum of light that is crap for mood when you are cooped up indoors, I don't think it is worth the energy savings because I end up paying for fake sun more if I don't have good light in my house.

2
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 15, 2011
at 07:54 AM

some good infoormation on reptile light bulbs here

http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=982

2
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on November 13, 2011
at 09:56 PM

I live in the UK and bought a "Rio" for ??49.99. I turn it on as my alarm goes off and it can be set to gradually get brighter until full, which I find is a good way to wake up. I keep it lighting my room as I get ready for work. Though it can auto-turn off after an hour, the downside is that you have to press the button to turn it on; so you can't attach it to a timer plug in the wall which would have made it a great alarm clock. I found it to be the best value reviewed light on Amazon. Some others are ridiculously expensive.

Does it work? Well personally I find it makes a difference for me, it seems to help my mood which is prone towards depression. I also take Vitamin D3 and try and get out of the office at lunch.

"Rio Low Energy SAD Light Therapy Lamp": http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001PIJF48

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:45 AM

Thanks for the tip! That looks exactly like something I'm looking for, and it's cheap too - but unfortunately they don't ship to Finland. :/ I'll keep looking...

1
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on November 15, 2011
at 03:46 PM

My Philips GoLite gives out bright blue light (not full spectrum) that is supposed to help with SAD. I suspect it's over your price range though. Another possibility is the Lightphoria Light Therapy pad. That's full spectrum and seems to be a reasonable price.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on November 15, 2011
at 07:59 PM

I don't use it for that, so I don't know. I use it for insomnia/jetlag, seems to have worked ok for that (although could be placebo effect).

Daac5f2510a6c0466f22dac57e40d070

(90)

on November 15, 2011
at 04:52 PM

"is supposed to help with SAD" - What's your experience with goLITE? Does it seem to work?

1
Cfec4f7412ba8430a965cc117b53b22b

(50)

on November 15, 2011
at 03:29 PM

Hi! I hear you on that note... I live up around AK and i'm feeling it already... lol i've only chalked it up to just feeling weary because of all the snow on the ground lol :( but I think it could be beneficial to try getting some full spectrum light bulbs (really, really cheap from whatever store you've got up there that sells lightbulbs) and also I would up my fish oil intake... Fish oil, when taken regularly and in great enough quantities can actually help alleviate minor depressive symptoms as a body that is deficient in omega 3's...I know where i'm at here they sell eggs at the store that have added omega 3s.. I would try to increase intake wherever possible- check out this webpage..Dr. Weil is onto something:

link text

hope this helps!

1
Ba20b502cf02b5513ea8c4bb2740d8cb

on November 13, 2011
at 08:14 PM

I wouldn't make a consistent habit of doing this as a regular practice but try jumping in a tanning bed for 6-8 minutes, throw on some relaxing music and then take a warm shower afterwards.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 15, 2011
at 08:42 AM

Haven't done indoor tanned for a few years because it is hard to get away with a little kiddo, but 1-2 times per week really helped me fend off the winter blues in years past.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 15, 2011
at 08:43 AM

Haven't indoor tanned for a few years because it is hard to get away with a little kiddo, but 1-2 times per week really helped me fend off the winter blues in pre mama days.

0
1f44266dfd604b881b35a04254e85e8a

on November 18, 2013
at 02:34 AM

I just bought a sun lamp and am planning on using it at breakfast before going to work. I work in a place with no windows and I spend the day indoors. Nothing replaces sunlight of course but they seem to be a viable option to help cope with our less than optimal modern environments.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on December 03, 2011
at 11:49 AM

I really glad to find this web site on bing, just what I was looking for: D too saved to bookmarks.

0
3a567c1637db69f1455ce35e78201a2c

(1054)

on November 13, 2011
at 07:43 PM

I don't think 5000IU Vit D3 is nearly enough for north climes in the winter.

The Vitamin D Council says it is vitually impossible to over dose with Vit D3. Cases they have reported on were due to pharmacy compounding errors and patient errors. These involved cases of folks taking 500,000IU daily instead of 50000IU weekly for over a year. None of these folks suffered any adverse effects.

Safe level upper range is around 250mg/ml serum but no more.

I would experiment with 50000IU daily during the winter. At full sun at the equator, half naked sun exposure for a half hour yields skin production of somewhere around 20000IU daily.

Be your own n1 experiment in supplementation.

I just don't think bright lights will do the trick. If you want to spend the money for tanning salon, you can but you do have to be aware of skin cancer. Folks that supplement heavily do not burn at all from natural sunlight.

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 14, 2011
at 08:32 AM

What is this recommendation of 10,000 IU or even 50,000 IU based on? It's been quite a while since my ancestors left Africa, and I don't think that my more recent ancestors living here in the north got quite that much of vitamin D3. I tried to Google a bit and found some sites that claim it's impossible for the skin to generate D3 at these latitudes in the winter. My ancestors probably ate a lot of fish though. 500 grams of baltic herring only contains about 4000 IU of vitamin D. So it would seem a bit odd for me to need so much more vit D3 than my Finnish ancestors...?

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 13, 2011
at 08:25 PM

@Dextery, light boxes do not work by increasing vitamin D levels--they emit VISIBLE light, not UV light. Light therapy and vitamin D therapy are separate issues, but not mutually exclusive.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 16, 2011
at 02:00 PM

Re: Virtually impossible to OD? Perhaps by some arbitrary measure of toxicity. But for me, when I jumped on the VitD bandwagon I developed some disturbing dizzy feelings when lying down and rolling over. There are apparently other things light does aside from VitD.

-2
5499c214946253e37a0631092c85602a

on November 16, 2011
at 10:39 AM

Wow, interesting! Has anyone else come across the same thing compared to this? I am curious where to find more responses on this matter???

Aa5e411ac90ac543cdb7d06a812a908d

(446)

on November 16, 2011
at 10:51 AM

Downvoted, because this is clearly an attempt to promote the company linked on this user's profile. And the products of this company are definitely not for someone on a tight budget...

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 16, 2011
at 12:56 PM

Karoliina, better to flag than to downvote.

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